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Scientists Explain Age-Related Obesity: Brown Fat Fails

Discovery could lead to new therapeutic targets in obesity-related diseases (January 2)

Researchers may have found why it seems to get easier and easier to pack on unwanted pounds: New research published in the January 2014 issue of the FASEB Journal shows that as people age, the thermogenic activity of brown fat is reduced. Brown fat is a “good” fat located in the back of the neck that helps burn “bad” white fat around our bellies. In addition, the researchers discovered a possible metabolic on/off switch that could reactivate brown fat.

To make their discoveries, the researchers analyzed two groups of mice. The first group had the platelet-activating factor receptors (PAFR) gene knocked out. The second group was normal. The PAFR-deficient mice developed a more severe obese state characterized by higher body and epididymal fat mass with age than that of wild-type littermates.

Findings from this PAFR knock-out genetic model showed that PAFR deficiency causes brown adipose tissue (BAT) dysfunction, which induces the development of obesity because of the impaired thermogenic activity of BAT. According to the investigators, this study could elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying PAF/PAF receptor-mediated anti-obesity, leading to the development of new targets for the treatment of obesity and related disorders, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.

“A common complaint is that older people have to work twice as hard with their diets and exercise to get half of the results of younger people,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. “Now we have a much better idea why this is the case: Our brown fat stops working as we age. Unfortunately, until a way to turn it back on is developed, we’ll have to be prepared to eat more salads and lean proteins, while logging more miles on the treadmill than our younger counterparts."

Source: Medical Xpress; January 2, 2014.

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