Protein Responds to Fat, But Not in Fat People

A protein produced in the liver has been found to appear in direct response to the consumption of fatty foods, preparing the body for the fats arrival. The same study showed, however, that obese individuals often lack normal levels of this protein, suggesting that the discovery of this protein’s mechanism could lead to novel ways for treating the well-documented obesity epidemic.

The protein adropin was of primary focus in the study. It was found that in normal-weight mice, adropin levels rise after a high fat meal, and fall after fasting. In obese mice, however, the adropin response was not as regularly tied to fat-intake. This led to the investigation of whether inducing, or administering, excess adropin in obese mice, could have a positive effect on their obesity.

Obesity is a dangerous and prevalent disorder that has close ties to numerous ailments. It’s been shown to be directly related to insulin resistance (a pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes) and fatty liver disease, which led these two conditions to be investigated in the study.

While, as noted above, obese mice were observed to have irregular adropin production, and also a high prevalence of insulin resistance and fat-buildup on the liver, providing extra adropin had a profound effect on reversing these trends. Some obese mice were “manipulated” to produce extra adropin, and though they didn’t actually lose weight, they became more sensitive to insulin, and developed less fat on their livers. Researcher Dr. Andrew Butler states that when producing extra adropin “the mice also ultimately eat less and lose weight, but the other metabolic improvements do not depend on the animals’ shrinking waistlines. The good news is that when you provide a synthetic version of the peptide, it reverses some of the consequences of obesity.”

So how can this new finding be utilized? First, the effects of adropin must be further investigated through human models, to see if the mechanisms are similar. If this is found to be the case, their may be grounds for new medications and treatments for obesity related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. The researchers express optimism that “adropin may form the basis for the development of new therapeutic targets for treating metabolic disorders associated with obesity.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Butler, Andrew. Genova, Cathleen. Cell Metabolism news release. December 2008.