A Clue As To How Obesity Works

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Obesity is a worldwide concern. In fact according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in America alone, almost a third of the population is considered obese. And there is an estimated cost of about $147 billion annually for people who are obese in order to cover their medical expenses. Obesity is also a leading cause of morbidities like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and many other non-communicable diseases.

It is undeniable that the implication of obesity to the general health of the population and the budget is negative. However, more scientists are getting closer to identifying how the condition progresses. Understanding of this concept is vital towards providing more efficient means of treatments.

In a study conducted by researchers from the Monash University and some researchers from the US, it has revealed that resistance to the hormone leptin develops, which is considered a causal component of obesity. According to lead author of the study Professor Tony Tiganis, our bodies produce leptin in response to increasing fat deposits. “Acting on a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, leptin instructs the body to increase energy expenditure and decrease food intake, and so helps us maintain a healthy body weight,” according to Professor Tiganis.

“The body’s response to leptin is diminished in overweight and obese individuals, giving rise to the concept of ‘leptin-resistance’. We’ve discovered more about how ‘leptin-resistance’ develops, providing new directions for research into possible treatments.”

Professor Tiganis’ team have discovered the third protein that inhibits resistance of leptin in the brain. In mice subjects, this third protein becomes more excessive with weight-gain, exacerbating leptin-resistance and hastening its succession to morbid obesity. The study manifested that the three negative regulators of leptin take place in different stages, thus making researchers understand how obesity develops.

“Drugs targeting one of the negative regulators are already in clinical trials for Type 2 Diabetes, however, our research shows that in terms of increasing leptin-sensitivity in obesity, targeting only one of these won’t be enough. All three regulators might need to be switched off,” said Professor Tiganis.

According to the results of the study, fat induced weight gain is highly preventable in genetically modified mice upon depleting the brain with two of the negative regulators in the brain. “We now have to determine what happens when all three negative regulators are neutralised. Do we prevent high fat diet-induced obesity?”

The more knowledge and information is known about obesity, the better equipped the scientists will be in developing medications that will promote good diet and exercises. “Humans have a deep-seated attraction to overeating and nutrient-rich food, inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Now that food is more readily available and our lifestyles are less active, our evolutionary drive to overeat is becoming problematic.”

In Australia, more than four million people are obese and if the current trends persist, more than 80% of adults and almost one third of children will be obese by 2020.




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