This could be bad news for many people who have been trying to lose weight.
Regardless of whether you follow a balanced diet and how much you exercise, your obesity could be related to your brain, which could also be due to your genetics.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) found for the first time in mice that a brain protein directly influences the neurons that enable, us, humans and rodents to maintain a healthy weight.
Back in April 2015, the lead author of the study, Thierry Alquier, had already revealed that the protein called “acyl CoA-binding protein” (ACBP) allowed astrocytes, the cells that promote neuronal functions, to signal variations in fatty acids and lipids in blood to neurons.
This information helps the brain to adjust food consumption and energy expenditure and control the body’s weight.
The researchers revealed that the neurons that cause a reduction in food intake are called the pro-opiomelanocortin neurons or the POMC neurons. The POMC neurons closely interact with astrocytes that produce ACBP in a particular area of the brain, which is the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.
This region of the hypothalamus contains two populations of neurons with opposing functions when activated; one results in increased food intake and the other, POMC neurons, promotes a reduction in the consumption of food and increase in energy expenditure (metabolism).
The Genes and Genetics of Obesity
Genetic mutations are the cause of 5 to 10 percent of all obesity cases. Among these cases of obesity, a large proportion of the population is related to a disturbance of a significant neuronal pathway known as the melanocortin pathway.
The deletion of the ACBP gene in astrocytes of the arcuate region of the hypothalamus results in obesity.
In genetically modified mice that were made to be obese, researchers injected them with ACBP daily and observed that it led to a reduction in their food intake and resulted in a weight loss of five percent in five days via the mechanism that relies on the activation of the POMC neurons.
But translating this discovery to humans requires caution. The study is only in its initial stages and has been carried out only on laboratory mice.
Obesity is recognized by the World Health Organization as a global public health problem. It is a major risk for many chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders and premature death.
This type of research will hopefully help scientists understand how individuals become obese, resulting in strategies that use genetics to maitain a healthy weight.