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Body weight homeostat

Homeostat that regulates fat mass independently of leptin

The study was performed on obese rodents that were made artificially heavier by loading with extra weights

Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have found evidence for the existence of an internal body weight sensing system. This system operates like bathroom scales, registering body weight and thereby fat mass. More knowledge about the sensing mechanism could lead to a better understanding of the causes of obesity as well as new anti-obesity drugs.

"We have discovered a completely new system that regulates fat mass. We hope this discovery will lead to a new direction in obesity research. The findings may also provide new knowledge about the cause of obesity and, in the long run, new treatments of obesity," professor John-Olov Jansson, from Sahlgrenska Academy. "Quite simply, we have found support for the existence of internal bathroom scales. The weight of the body is registered in the lower extremities. If the body weight tends to increase, a signal is sent to the brain to decrease food intake and keep the body weight constant."

The study was performed on obese rodents that were made artificially heavier by loading with extra weights. The animals lost almost as much weight as the artificial load. The extra weights caused body fat to decrease and blood glucose levels to improve. The results are published in the paper, ‘Body weight homeostat that regulates fat mass independently of leptin in rats and mice’, in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The only known homeostatic regulator of fat mass is the leptin system and the researchers hypothesised that there is a second homeostat regulating body weight with an impact on fat mass. The results demonstrate that there is a body weight homeostat that regulates fat mass independently of leptin. As the body weight-reducing effect of increased loading was dependent on osteocytes, they proposed that there is a sensor for body weight in the long bones of the lower extremities acting as ‘body scales’. This is part of a body weight homeostat, “gravitostat”, keeps body weight and body fat mass constant.

The new body fat regulatory system is the first new one since the discovery of the hormone, leptin, 23 years ago by American scientists.

"The mechanism that we have now identified regulates body fat mass independently of leptin, and it possible that leptin combined with activation of the internal body scales can become an effective treatment for obesity," added Professor Claes Ohlsson at Sahlgrenska Academy. "We believe that the internal body scales give an inaccurately low measure when you sit down. As a result you eat more and gain weight.”

To access this paper, please click here

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