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Material cause of obesity and diabetes discovered
Everyone should be aware that too much sugar and fat are unhealthy, make you fat and are associated with numerous diseases. However, if you ask yourself why this is the case, you will quickly come across question marks. What mechanisms in the body cause us to gain weight when we eat badly? The answer lies in metabolism. A German research team deciphered the material cause of obesity and diabetes and was able to nip these processes in the bud with a small intervention.
Eating what you want without getting sick and gaining weight sounds like a utopia. However, if you look at the metabolic processes that are responsible for weight gain, it shows that everything is just a matter of biochemistry. This was shown by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research. They deciphered the metabolic process that causes the body to put on fat. At the same time, this also forms the basis of type 2 diabetes. With a small intervention in the metabolism, the team was able to show that overweight mice suddenly lost weight and developed no diabetes despite an unhealthy and high-fat diet. The study results were recently published in the renowned journal "Cell".
Is a high-fat diet compatible with a healthy lifestyle?
Fatty liver, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colon cancer: the list of serious diseases associated with an unhealthy diet is long. On the other hand, only a consistent and long-term change in diet that requires discipline and background knowledge helps. However, many people do not have the time or desire to deal with the subject of nutrition so intensively. They want to eat whatever they feel like. Can a sugar and high fat diet be reconciled with a healthy lifestyle? Maybe yes, says the research team of the Max Planck Society.
What happens in the body when we eat too much fat
The researchers used mice to investigate which metabolic processes lead to the body putting on fat. It had already emerged from previous studies that the adipose tissue can only store excess fats to a certain extent. If this point is exceeded, more and more fat molecules are deposited in the muscles and liver. These deposits lay the foundation for fatty liver and insulin resistance, which lead to type 2 diabetes.
Not all fats are equally involved in fat formation
A certain group of fat molecules is largely responsible for this process. The so-called ceramides are compounds that bind to fatty acids. They are made through metabolic processes when we eat high-fat food. This process is called ceramide synthase. Previous studies have attempted to prevent this synthase. However, this led to considerable side effects. The Max Planck Research Group has now broken down the ceramide synthase in more detail.
Why does fat make you fat?
"If the ceramide synthesis is completely inhibited, for example, the development of the animals is also disturbed," explains Dr. Philipp Hammerschmidt from the research group in a press release on the study results. The team therefore investigated which of the different ceramide synthases are precisely involved in the development of insulin resistance.
The team identified a specific subset of ceramides that accumulated in the liver of overweight mice. According to the study, these ceramide molecules are always of a certain length and are formed by ceramide synthases 5 and 6. In further tests, the researchers specifically suppressed the formation of this subgroup. “Interestingly, only the inactivation of Ceramid Synthase 6 could protect the mice against obesity, fatty liver, and insulin resistance. The loss of ceramide synthase 5, on the other hand, had no effect on this, ”concludes Hammerschmidt.
Ceramide deposits inhibit the energy balance
As the researchers report, the ceramides from synthase 6 influence the structure and function of mitochondria, i.e. the cells that are responsible for the production of energy in the body. With an excessively high-fat and sugar-rich diet, ceramide synthase 6 accumulated in the mitochondria and inhibited their function in the long term. In this process, the researchers see the cause of excessive weight and the associated diseases.
Obese mice ate lean with a high-fat diet
When the research team specifically blocked ceramide 6 synthase in the mice, something astonishing happened: "The mice continued to eat very high in fat, but lost weight while improving their sugar metabolism," says Hammerschmidt. Such regulation is also conceivable in humans. However, this has to be examined more closely in further studies. (vb)