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Researchers Find That Protein – Not Sugar – Stimulates Wakefulness, Burns Calories

November 16, 2011: 12:00 AM EST
British scientists have found that amino acids in proteins such as egg whites stimulate orexin neurons that secrete a brain stimulant (orexin/hypocretin) that seems to encourage calorie burning – preventing weight gain – while keeping people awake. The scientists compared the actions of different nutrients on orexin cells. They found that glucose blocks orexin cells, which may be a reason for after-meal sleepiness, but amino acids stop glucose from blocking orexin cells. In other words, the protein negated the effects of sugar on the cells. The findings may shed light on prior puzzling observations showing that protein meals can make people feel less calm and more alert than carbohydrate meals.
Dr. Denis Burdakov et al., "Activation of Central Orexin/Hypocretin Neurons by Dietary Amino Acids", Neuron, November 16, 2011, © Elsevier Inc.
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