The ability to store fat was perhaps one of the most crucial lifesaving biological components in early humans. It was an asset at a time when food sources were unpredictable for our ancestors.
Now, however, this once-helpful skill is adding pounds among a population with a constant supply of food. Scientists might be able to help.
Eat Without Getting Fat
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen were able to render mice "completely resistant" to obesity in a new experiment that involved deleting an enzyme called NAMPT.
The findings were recently published in the journal Molecular Metabolism, and it could open up further discussion on treating obesity among humans.
After deleting this said enzyme, the researchers fed mice a high-fat diet then observed changes in their body.
"We gave [them] a diet that more or less corresponds to continuously eating burgers and pizza," said Karen Nørgaard Nielsen, the study's first author. "Still, it was impossible for them to expand their fat tissue."
For the researchers, the goal is to have a better understanding of the processes involved in metabolic diseases and be able to make treatments.
"Our ultimate goal is that by understanding these fundamental underpinnings of how we become obese, we can apply our finding to the development of novel treatment strategies for metabolic disease," said Nielsen.
Their research shares many parallels with results obtained from human subjects. Several studies have previously shown that excessive amounts of NAMPT in blood and stomach fat tissue are significantly tied to being overweight or obese. Nielsen and her colleagues' study, however, provides the first evidence that eliminating the enzyme insulates the body from being obese.
In their test, the researchers had two batches of mice — the normal ones and those lacking in NAMPT. They fed both groups a healthy diet and saw no significant changes in their bodies. Then, they fed them junk.
After consuming high-fat foods, the normal mice group became very obese. However, the non-NAMPT group only gained as much weight as the first group had when they ate a healthy diet. On top of that, the second group had better blood glucose control, indicating new insights into the relationship of NAMPT and diabetes.
A number of scientists think that NAMPT is a key component to metabolic function throughout the body, from the liver to skeletal muscles. The research shows that the enzyme is crucial to the function of the fat tissue.
For early humans, NAMPT was probably a godsend biological process, not in today's society, however. Now, we have a steady supply of food, unlike our ancestors, who had to hunt for their meals and save it as long as they could.
What If We Get Rid Of NAMPT?
The unfortunate thing is that we simply can't eliminate NAMPT from the body without experiencing grave consequences. Even decreasing it a little might pose serious risks, according to Zachary Gerhart-Hines, another author of the study.
It was reported in 2017 that one in every five Americans is obese, putting them at risk for serious diseases and health conditions including cancers, stroke, poor mental health, cardiovascular issues, and for women, difficulties during pregnancy. Among American children, 17 percent are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.