The histaminergic system as a target for the prevention of obesity and metabolic syndrome

Neuropharmacology. 2016 Jul;106:3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.07.002. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


The control of food intake and body weight is very complex. Key factors driving eating behavior are hunger and satiety that are controlled by an interplay of several central and peripheral neuroendocrine systems, environmental factors, the behavioral state and circadian rhythm, which all concur to alter homeostatic aspects of appetite and energy expenditure. Brain histamine plays a fundamental role in eating behavior as it induces loss of appetite and has long been considered a satiety signal that is released during food intake (Sakata et al., 1997). Animal studies have shown that brain histamine is released during the appetitive phase to provide a high level of arousal preparatory to feeding, but also mediates satiety. Furthermore, histamine regulates peripheral mechanisms such as glucose uptake and insulin function. Preclinical research indicates that activation of H1 and H3 receptors is crucial for the regulation of the diurnal rhythm of food consumption; furthermore, these receptors have been specifically recognized as mediators of energy intake and expenditure. Despite encouraging preclinical data, though, no brain penetrating H1 receptor agonists have been identified that would have anti-obesity effects. The potential role of the H3 receptor as a target of anti-obesity therapeutics was explored in clinical trials that did not meet up to the expectations or were interrupted ( Nonetheless, interesting results are emerging from clinical trials that evaluated the attenuating effect of betahistine (an H1 agonist/H3 antagonist) on metabolic side effects associated with chronic antipsychotics treatment. Aim of this review is to summarize recent results that suggest the clinical relevance of the histaminergic system for the treatment of feeding disorders and provide an up-to-date summary of preclinical research. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'Histamine Receptors'.

Keywords: Betahistine; Feeding behavior; H1 receptor; H3 receptor; Weight gain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Histamine / metabolism*
  • Histamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Histamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Receptors, Histamine / metabolism


  • Histamine Agents
  • Receptors, Histamine
  • Histamine