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Viagra (Sildenafil) As a Weight-Loss Drug?

Scientists report conversion of ‘bad’ fat cells to ‘good’ fat cells (Jan. 17)

Viagra (sildenafil, Pfizer) is commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. The drug prevents the degradation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), thereby ensuring a blood supply for an erection. However, another effect of sildenafil has been noticed for quite some time. Mice given the drug over long periods are known to be resistant to obesity when fed high-fat diets. Until now, however, the cause of this reduced weight gain was unclear.

In a new study, researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have shed some light on the apparent weight-loss effect of sildenafil. Their findings were published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

The researchers administered sildenafil to mice for 7 days and observed the effects on fat cells. The drug was found to increase the conversion of white fat cells — which are found in human “problem areas,” such as the midriff — into beige ones in treated animals.

“Beige fat cells burn the energy from ingested food and convert it to heat,” Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer said. In his opinion, the new study has provided interesting starting points for further research into this mechanism.

“Sildenafil is not only able to minimize erectile problems, but it can also reduce the risks of gaining excessive weight,” he explained.

According to Pfeiffer, the researchers may have found a mechanism that allows the conversion of undesirable white fat cells into “good” beige fat cells that can “melt away” excess pounds.

Despite the promising data, the researchers point out that people shouldn’t think they can “pop” some sildenafil tablets and start losing weight.

“We are currently in the basic research stage, and all of the studies have been exclusively performed on mice,” Pfeifer said.

Source: University of Bonn; January 17, 2013.

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