Australian scientists have discovered a molecular switch in the brain of mice that controls the body’s capacity to store fat, particularly after weight loss.
The Monash University study, published in international journal Cell Reports, could one day spell the end of so-called yo-yo dieting, say researchers.
According to Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Associate Professor Zane Andrews, repeated dieting can lead to weight gain because the brain interprets these diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages.
Analysis of hunger-processing cells in the brains of mice by Melbourne researchers have identified a protein to explain why this may be the case.
They found the protein carnitine acetyltransferase (Crat) instructs the body to replace the lost weight through increasing fat storage.
The research team developed a mouse has this protein genetically turned off.
They found when these mice fasted or fed after a fast they consumed fat reserves at a greater than normal rate.
Manipulating this protein offers the opportunity to trick the brain into not storing the fat, Assoc Prof Andrews said.
“By regulating this protein we can ensure that diet-induced weight loss stays off rather than sneaking back on,” he said.
Much more research is still needed, but researchers say being able to control this protein offers a potential therapy for obesity and other metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes.
– with additional reporting from Phillippa Carisbrooke