Still feel hungry even while you’re eating? You might want to switch up what you’re putting on your plate: Foods that contain high levels of certain amino acids can make you feel fuller, faster, new research published in the journal Molecular Metabolism suggests.
In the study, researchers added high concentrations of certain amino acids—the building blocks of protein, which play a role in everything from muscle building to cell repair—to the brain cells of rodents to see how they reacted.
Within 30 seconds, special cells called tanycytes in the brain detected the amino acids via umami taste receptors on the tongue. Then, the tanycytes relayed signals to the other parts of the brain responsible for appetite control and satiety. This can help your brain think you’re fuller more quickly.
The amino acids that sparked the most activation? Arginine and lysine, which are both “essential” amino acids, meaning your body can’t make them on their own—so they must come from food. (Find out whether you should take BCAAs if you lift weights.)
“Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full,” study author Nicholas Dale, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Finding that tanycytes, located at the center of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds.”
The thinking is, if you feel fuller quicker, you may be less likely to overeat—an important factor that can lead to weight gain.
Now, this study was done in rodent brain cells, so it’s not exactly clear whether the same findings would definitely apply to humans. More research would need to be done to be sure. However, humans do have similar taste receptors, so it’s possible that similar results would apply.