How a fat-burning molecule could help treat overweight and obesity

  • Worldwide, nearly 40% of adults are overweight and 13% are obese.
  • Obesity is a risk factor for a number of health conditions, but many people find it difficult to lose weight.
  • A new study has found that brown fat cells produce a molecule that helps burn fat.
  • This may indicate new treatments to help fight obesity and overweight.

According to the World Health Organization(WHO)obesity has tripled worldwide since 1975. Obesity and overweight are more common in high-income countries, but the numbers are rising rapidly in low- and middle-income countries.

More than 40% of adults in the United States and 28% of adults in the United Kingdom currently have obesity. Add in those who are overweight, and the figures rise to 73% of US adults, and almost 63% in the UK

Obesity and overweight are risk factors for very healthe conditionsincluding heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and some cancers.

People with obesity who want to lose weight can try to do this by:

  • Dietary changes – reducing processed foods and adopting a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • increasing physical activity
  • weight loss medications, such as orlistat (Xenical)
  • bariatric surgery, such as a tummy tuck or gastric bypass
  • hormonal treatments

It may help, but for many people, weight loss can be difficult to maintain.

Now a team from the University of Bonn, Germany, has identified a molecule that can help burn fat. The study findings, published in July in the journal, Earthmay indicate a new treatment for obesity.

Humans, and most other mammals, have two types of fat cells, or adipose tissue. White fat cells store energy; brown fat cells burn that energy to produce heat. However, unless the environment is cold – which, with central heating, it rarely is for most people – these brown fat cells are not necessary.

Modern humans eat a more energy-rich diet and move around less than our ancestors, which means we do not really use our brown fat cells and accumulate white fat cells, leading to weight gain. The abundant brown fat cells that keep newborns warm gradually cease to function and die away.

“It has long been known that brown fat cells are full of mitochondria, which is a source of energy and heat. Brown fat cells are most abundant in babies and decrease with age. ”

– Dr. Mir Ali, Bariatric Surgeon and Medical Director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, in an interview with Medical News Today

The number of people with severe obesity around the world is increasing. This is why scientists like study author Dr. Alexander Pfeifer of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn “is looking for substances that stimulate brown fat and thus increase fat burning.”

In a cell study, the researchers discovered that brown fat cells that were subjected to stress contained large amounts of inosine, a natural purien. The inosine then activated other brown fat cells to start burning energy, and also converted some white fat cells into brown fat cells.

They then investigated the effect of inosine in mice. Mice injected with inosine had a significantly higher oxygen consumption than those that were not, indicating a higher energy consumption. The mice also developed more brown fat cells.

In addition, mice treated with inosine while on a high-fat diet lost weight compared to controls, despite identical food intake.

The researchers believe this observation may indicate a potential therapeutic value of inosine as a treatment for obesity.

“This study is a big step towards finding a way to stimulate brown fat cells; The remaining questions are: how practical and effective is it to apply to people and how much weight will someone lose with this type of treatment? ”

– Dr Mir Ali

Inosine appears to be most effective when in the extracellular fluid. Both mice and humans have a transport molecule in cell membranes through which inosine penetrates cells. The researchers treated mice with a drug, dipyridamole, which inhibits these carriers. Dipiridamol is an approved treatment for blood clotting disorders in humans.

The mice treated with dipiridamole burned more energy than controls.

In about 2% to 4% of people, the carriers are less active; these people tend to be leaner than those with more active carriers. Thus, the researchers suggest that inhibiting the transporters may be a way to stimulate energy burning.

Depending on further research confirming their findings, they suggest that the drug may be the basis for a treatment for obesity.

Dr. Ali agreed: “If it is found to be a clinically proven method of stimulating brown fat cells and thus increasing energy expenditure, it could be a possible way to lose weight for the increasing number of Americans struggling with obesity.”

Dr. However, Pfeifer warns that a pill alone is “unlikely to be the solution to the world’s raging obesity pandemic.

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