People trying to lose weight are commonly heard complaining about how all their efforts at the gym are leading them nowhere. They now have science backing up their claim. A new study suggests that the fatter we are, the more our body appears to produce a protein that inhibits our ability to burn fat.
Our body contains two types of adipose tissue – white (WAT) and brown (BAT) adipose tissue. Fat cells generally act to store excess energy and releases it when needed. Now, brown adipose tissue in particular plays an important role in thermogenesis, which generates heat to keep the body warm. A recent study published in Nature Communications, has shown that the soluble protein sLR11 suppresses thermogenesis in adipose tissue.
This essentially means that the sLR11 protein in the adipose tissue inhibits thermogenesis causing the formation of white adipose tissue. The presence of sLR11, inhibiting this process lead to increase in WAT and a decrease in BAT. This phenomenon is highly undesirable, especially if the person in question is trying to lose weight.
Dr. Andrew J. Whittle, from University of Cambridge, Metabolic Research Laboratories stated, “Our discovery may help explain why overweight individuals find it incredibly hard to lose weight. Their stored fat is actively fighting against their efforts to burn it off at the molecular level.”
In the study, it was found that mice that lacked the gene for the production of this protein were far more resistant to weight gain. All mice – and, in fact, humans – increase their metabolic rate slightly when switched from a lower calorie diet to a higher calorie diet, but mice lacking this gene were able to burn calories faster.
When the researchers examined levels of sLR11 in humans, they found that levels of the protein circulating in the blood correlated with total fat mass – in other words, the greater the levels of the protein, the higher the total fat mass. In addition, when obese patients underwent bariatric surgery, their degree of postoperative weight loss was directly proportional to the reduction in their sLR11 levels, suggesting that sLR11 is produced by fat cells.
“We have found an important mechanism that could be targeted not just to help increase people’s ability to burn fat, but also help people with conditions where saving energy is important, such as anorexia nervosa,” said Professor Toni Vidal-Puig.
Targetting thermogenesis is greatly trending in the scientific community for treatment of obesity and metabolic disorders. The manipulation of sLR11 protein using various techniques holds immense potential in the future.
Source: University of Cambridge