A team of researchers has begun to study whether psilocybin, a natural psychedelic compound found in so-called “magic mushrooms”, shows promise as a potential treatment for obesity and eating disorders.
Their first results, published Translational psychiatry, indicate that psilocybin does not reduce body weight or food intake in obese mice. But the researchers don’t believe their findings, or lack thereof, should deter further studies evaluating psilocybin’s potential in humans.
Recent studies have provided the first evidence that psilocybin-assisted therapy could be effective in treating addiction, leading the scientists behind the new research to wonder if it could also help those struggling to control addictions. cravings. Additionally, a correlational study published in 2021 found that those who reported having tried a classic psychedelic drug at least once in their lifetime had significantly lower risks of being overweight or obese.
“Perhaps surprisingly, obesity is a rather treatment-resistant disease that shares neuropathological similarities with mental disorders, such as substance abuse,” explained study author Christoffer Clemmensen (@ClemmensenC), associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.
“Dysfunctions in the homeostatic and reward circuits can lead to ‘relapse’ in obese people, making it difficult to adhere to lifestyle and even drug interventions. Since psychedelics are thought to enhance the plasticity of neural circuits, it may be that when combined with behavioral therapy, psychedelics can be powerful tools to “reset” long-standing compulsive behaviors.In addition, conventional psychedelics act on the serotonergic system and may have a direct effect on food intake through broad activation of serotonin (5-HT) receptors, highlighting their potential benefits for obesity.
For their new study, the researchers used mouse models of genetic obesity, diet-induced obesity and binge eating disorder to examine the effect of psilocybin on body weight and food intake. . But they found no evidence that a single high dose of psilocybin or daily microdosing produced significant metabolic or behavioral changes.
“We were surprised that psilocybin did not have at least a subtle direct effect on food intake and/or body weight in genetic and diet-induced models of obesity and overeating” , Clemmensen told PsyPost.
“Although we have failed to uncover major effects of psilocybin on mouse energy metabolism and feeding-related behaviors, we believe that there are nuances to the mode of action of psychedelics that do not cannot be captured appropriately in rodent models.Importantly, psilocybin was safe and had no adverse effects on the physiological parameters we tested in mice.
Mouse models are an invaluable tool that allows scientists to study a wide range of conditions in a highly controlled setting, and they have contributed to understanding the complex genetic and biological processes that underlie many diseases.
Although rodent models have helped advance our understanding of addiction and other conditions, they are not a perfect replacement for human subjects. Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of psychedelics on food intake in humans, the researchers said.
“The main caveat is translation,” Clemmensen explained. “Although animal models in general have been invaluable for neuroscience and metabolism research, they may be inappropriate for testing the health benefits of psychedelics.”
“I remain excited about this topic, psychedelics for the treatment of obesity and eating disorders, and I think we should start thinking about the subgroups of patients who might benefit from this class of drugs,” said he added.
The study, “Acute and Long-Term Effects of Psilocybin on Energy Balance and Eating Behavior in Mice,” was authored by Nicole Fadahunsi, Jens Lund, Alberte Wollesen Breum, Cecilie Vad Mathiesen, Isabella Beck Larsen, Gitte Moos Knudsen, Anders Bue Klein, and Christoffer Clemmensen.
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