Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why a Fat Belly Makes You Fatter

It's a vicious cycle. The fat you carry around your middle could make you fatter--even if you don't overindulge on cookies and chips. How? Hormones. Abdominal fat tissue produces a hormone called Neuropeptide Y or NPY that encourages the development of cells that turn into fat.

That's the word from researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute, which is linked to the University of Western Ontario in Canada. It's long been known that high levels of NPY in the brain create constant feelings of hunger that cause some people to overeat. Now it appears that same hormone has a more nefarious effect since it's not only produced by the brain, but also by abdominal fat, reports the BBC News.

Of all the fat in our bodies, the most dangerous is that in our stomachs, since it increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. The NPY that is in abdominal tissue increases the number of fat cells in the body by stimulating the replication of fat cell precursor cells, which then change into fat cells. "This may lead to a vicious cycle where NPY produced in the brain causes you to eat more and therefore gain more fat around your middle and then that fat produces more NYP hormone which leads to even more fat cells," study leader Dr. Yaiping Yang told the BBC News.

The big unanswered question: Is the NPY that is produced in the abdomen released into the body's circulatory system? If so, this would affect hunger messages in the brain. But the good news is that doctors may be able to develop a simple blood test to detect increased levels of NPY. "If you can detect NPY early and identify those at risk for abdominal obesity we can then target therapy to turn off NPY," Yang explained to the BBC News. "It would be much easier to use drugs to prevent obesity than to treat the diseases caused by obesity." The study findings were published in the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology journal.

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