Hormone May Be Key to Fat Digestion

Newly identified compound helps control bile acid production

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FRIDAY, Oct. 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've identified a hormone that plays an important role in the digestion of fat, cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E and D.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers report that the hormone, called fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15), helps keep bile acids under control. FGF15 sends a signal to the liver that controls the production of bile acids, which emulsify fats and enable them to be broken down and absorbed by the digestive system.

In research with mice, the scientists determined that the intestine senses the level of bile acids and then triggers secretion of FGF15, which limits further production of bile acids by the liver.

"Bile acids are powerful detergents whose concentrations must be tightly regulated," study author Steven Kliewer explained in a prepared statement. "The body needs enough to absorb fat and other nutrients, but too much can damage tissues and organs. We've found a new mechanism by which a hormone produced in the intestine protects against the overproduction of bile acid."

The findings suggest FGF15 plays an important role in signaling between the gut and liver, and also raise questions about what other roles FGF15 may play in other parts of the body.

The study appears in the October issue of Cell Metabolism.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about bile.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, October 2005

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