Fatter people have a harder time losing weight because of a protein that inhibits the depletion of fat cells, a new study found. If there are more fat cells stored in the body, there is an increased production of a type of protein called sLR11 that inhibits the ability to burn fats.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Sciences at the University of Cambridge in the UK and Toho University in Japan, found that this specific protein inhibits the body's ability to perform thermogenesis, the body's ability to burn fat and produce heat energy.
"Our discovery may help explain why overweight individuals find it incredibly hard to lose weight," Dr. Andrew Whittle, author of the study said.
He added that excess stored fat in the body is fighting against efforts to lose weight by burning it off at the molecular level. The protein stops the process of burning energy to keep the body warm. Thus, it prevents weight loss. The findings shed light in future treatments for obesity and obesity-induced diseases like metabolic syndrome.
To reach their findings, the researchers investigated the reason why mice that do not have the gene for the production of sLR11 are resistant to weight gain.
The body has two types of adipose or fat tissues. The 'bad' white fat cells are the ones usually found in the belly while the 'good' brown fat is found around the neck and shoulders, although not all has it there. The 'good' brown fats are responsible in burning calories to keep the body warm, which is dubbed as the process of thermogenesis.
They also found that levels of sLR11 in humans who are fatter were greater in number. Thus, the count of this protein circulating in the blood correlated with total fat mass.
"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," Professor Toni Vidal-Puig, lead author of the study said.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Nov. 20.
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