September 4, 2014
At an early age, we are familiarized with our most vital organs. We learn that we would not be able to survive without the heart, the stomach, the intestines, the lungs, or the brain that controls them all. Most of us learn about the liver and kidneys, and maybe even learn that the skin itself, as unintuitive as it may be, is also considered an organ. The science you learned as a child, however, is not settled. The revolution in biological knowledge includes truly exciting discoveries about an organ that you’ve probably not heard of. I’m talking about fat.
September 30, 2014
Washington State University scientists, writing in the journal Food Chemistry, reveal that nondigestible compounds in Granny Smith apples can help stabilize gut bacteria and could also help prevent obesity. After studying a variety of apple types, the researchers determined Granny Smith apples have the highest concentrations of dietary fiber and polyphenols. These compounds are then fermented by bacteria in the gut, leading to the creation of more beneficial bacteria over time. This good bacteria, the researchers think, keeps inflammation in check and could prevent metabolic disorders. With further research, the compounds found in apples could become a powerful new tool in the fight against obesity.
October 7, 2014
USC scientists, writing in Nature Communications, discuss new work related to the suppression of a gene connected to obesity as a result of high-sugar diet. The researchers suggest that the Nrf2 gene could be targeted to help cells in the body “detox” and repair more quickly after exposure to high-fat, high-sugar diets. The Nrf2 gene is currently being researched by drug development companies seeking anti-aging breakthroughs even though hyperactive Nrf2 function has been connected to cancer. More research into how Nrf2 can be safely modulated long term, however, could prove to be an obesity and cell-aging breakthrough.
October 17, 2014
University of Bonn scientists have discovered that brown adipose tissue (fat cells) can be commanded to burn off more quickly and efficiently if stimulated with the body’s own adenosine signaling receptor molecule A2A. Furthermore, by transferring the A2A receptor gene from brown fat cells to the more difficult to burn white fat cells in a mouse study, the researchers achieved what they call a “browning” of white fat cells, thus making them easier to burn off. Though this research is in its earliest stages, the potential obesity and weight loss related implications could someday help eliminate a variety of metabolic disorders.
November 3, 2014
The BBC reports new data appearing in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology suggests weight loss surgery can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 80%. In the study, 2,167 obese patients who had weight loss surgery were tracked and compared to 2,167 obese patients who didn’t have surgery. Only 38 patients among the group who had surgery developed diabetes, compared to 177 in the nonintervention group. This study suggests the one-time cost of weight loss surgery could prove inconsequential compared to the ongoing long-term costs of managing diabetes.
November 11, 2014
New research appearing in the Journal of Cell Biology suggests a signaling pathway in brown adipose tissue (BAT) fat cells could have applications for diabetes and potentially obesity research and treatment. Researchers studied the activation of adrenoceptors on the outside of brown fat cells, which signal for glucose to be taken up from the bloodstream. The pathway, called mTORC2, differs from the insulin-triggered pathway, which activates BAT cells and could potentially be manipulated in type 2 diabetes patients to better regulate blood sugar.
November 17, 2014
New data from University of Georgia scientists appearing in the journal Pharmaceutical Research suggests the chlorogenic acid (CGA) compound found in coffee could help reduce insulin resistance and stop fat buildup in the liver. In a study on mice, the researchers fed a high-fat diet for 15 weeks while also injecting CGA into the mice twice a week. At the end of the study, the CGA-injected mice were found to be protected against weight gain, had normal blood sugar, and healthy liver function. With further study, CGA could become a useful tool in the field of obesity prevention as well as a potential way to stop obesity from leading to diabetes.
December 8, 2014
Researchers at the Louvain Drug Research Institute in Belgium, working with French and Swedish scientists and publishing their work in the journal Nature Communications, report that disabling the MyD88 protein in the intestinal immune system slowed down the development of diabetes. In an animal study, the researchers found slower diabetes progression, less adipose-fat tissue formation, and decreased inflammation when MyD88 was modified. Further research regarding this protein and how it affects diabetes and obesity could lead to compelling new treatments for both conditions.
December 9, 2014
Scientists at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, writing in the journal Nature Cell Biology, report the discovery of two compounds that could help the body turn white, adipose-fat tissue into brown, adipose-fat tissue. These compounds, the researchers reveal, could prove useful in fighting obesity because more brown, fat-burning tissue would help eliminate what would otherwise become white, fat-storing tissue. With further testing and development, this work could become a powerful new tool in the fight against obesity.
December 11, 2014
British scientists have developed a fiber compound that sends signals from the gut to the brain to increase feelings of satiation, Reuters reports. Using propionate, a fiber-based substance that interacts with gut microbes to increase feelings of fullness when eating, the scientists were able to re-create the effect of eating large amounts of fiber without actually doing so. This research could have implications for the future treatment of obesity, diabetes, and a variety of metabolic disorders.
January 14, 2015
University of Michigan scientists, releasing data in Nature Communications, discuss how an asthma drug that is currently in clinical trials came to be regarded as a useful tool in the fight against metabolic disorders like obesity. In studies on mice, the researchers determined that the asthma drug increased the rate at which the mice metabolized fat while also causing fat cells to release interleukin-6. Interleukin-6 was then shown to travel to the liver where it reduced the production of glucose. If results translate to humans in the studies underway, this drug could assist in the treatment of both obesity and diabetes.
January 16, 2015
University of Cambridge scientists, writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shed new light on just how important exercise is to decreasing the overall risk of early death. After studying over 330,000 subjects, the researchers found that lack of exercise could be responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity. The study also noted that simply taking a 20-minute walk daily, independent of BMI status, could decrease the risk of early death by up to 30% over time.
April 24, 2015
Organizations such as the Institute for Aging Research (IAR), a multidisciplinary project of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, have extensively studied people who have exceptionally long and healthy lifespans. Obviously, if we could find some common factor in diet or exercise habits—something that everybody could do to increase their health spans—it would be important information.
December 11, 2015
If you’re like me (and most Americans), you probably added a pound or two over the Thanksgiving holiday. Moreover, the high-calorie holiday season still has weeks to run, so it seems like a good time to talk about some of the solutions to that extra fat that afflicts so many of us.
January 22, 2016
Winter has come to South Florida at last, along with quite a few of our Canadian friends. For the first time this year, I’ve turned on central heating. I’ve even worn pants a few times. Typically, we resist running the heater until we absolutely have to. Part of the reason is that South Floridians tend to view the arrival of cold weather from the north as free air conditioning. Personally, I look forward to colder temperatures because of recent research regarding brown fat and metabolic disorders (basically obesity).
April 18, 2016
Despite important scientific and philosophical progress in the brief Hellenic period of ancient Athens, it was the emergence of the Enlightenment in 1700s Europe that finally liberated science to improve the human lot. Human progress has accelerated exponentially since then, and with it, affluence and health. Unfortunately, few people seem to understand how fortunate we are to be alive today. So I’m always happy when someone puts things in perspective.
June 20, 2016
A study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 40% of American women are now obese: the highest percentage in history. (Men have a slightly lower rate of obesity at 35%.)
November 28, 2016
The popular story of the Thanksgiving holiday is that it commemorates the rescue of the pilgrims struggling to survive in the new world by altruistic Wampanoag Indians. This is simply not true.
July 3, 2017
In the words of the virtuoso bluesman Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t right.” We recognize that people who fear imaginary threats are irrational. On the other hand, it’s equally true that a complete lack of fear is irrational.