March 16, 2012

A misfiring fat sensor may be the cause of obesity

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Defects in a protein that functions as a dietary fat sensor may be a cause of obesity and liver disease. The defects mishandle excess fat in the blood to be stored in unhealthy ways. The research highlights are available online at Nature.

The flawed protein is named GPR120 and it’s found in the surface of cells in the gut, liver, and fat tissue. The cells are activated by unsaturated fatty acids, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to have beneficial effects on health.

A little more evidence as to why this protein has implications on weight is seen in the response to the interaction between GPR120 and omega-3 fatty acids. In the gut, when unsaturated fatty acids from food bind to GPR120, this stimulates the release of hormones that suppress appetite and stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin.

In a healthy individual GPR120 senses high levels of fatty-acids in the blood and signal the fat cells to divide and produce more fat cells to store the fat, rather than it hardening the arteries and being absorbed by the liver to cause fatty liver disease.

When scientists studied mice deficient in GPR120 they found that the mice were more prone to obesity and liver disease when fed a high-fat diet. The translation in humans who had a mutation in the gene encoding GPR120 were shown to be significantly more likely to be obese.

The mice deficient in GPR120 became obese, had fatty livers, lower numbers of fat cells, and poor control of blood glucose. The adverse effects seen in these mice led researchers to believe that GPR120 allows the proper handling of fat storage. Faulty GPR120 mishandles the excess fat in the blood that leads to obesity and fatty liver disease. In humans, this pattern of obesity is associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If Donald Trump had to assess the performance of mutated GPR120 on the task of handling excess fat in the blood you’d be fired. You increase a person’s risk of obesity by 60%. ¬†You designate fat to hangout in places it doesn’t belong. It’s nothing personal. It’s business. Big Pharma may be coming for you with the next generation of obesity and fatty liver disease drugs.

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