Research and innovations are in full swing to find ways to prevent overweight and obesity from growing as major threats to healthy living. A study by scientists of Monash University, Melbourne might just prove to be path-breaking in this regard. The study that can potentially open new avenues in prevention and management of obesity involves the action of two well-known hormones that have crucial functions metabolic pathways – leptin and insulin.

A deeper look into the study would demand an introduction into two types of fat tissues in the body – White and Brown. White Fat constitutes a large percentage of overall body fat and mainly acts in energy storage and release of hormones. Brown Fat, on the other hand, constitutes only a much lesser percentage of overall body fat and is instrumental in burning calories (higher quantities are observed in lean people and children). The research done by the scientists from Monash University is shedding light into a fat regulatory mechanism involving the brain that can change white fat into brown.

This unique regulatory mechanism demonstrates a synchronized action of leptin, a hormone created by fat cells that can suppress hunger; and insulin, the well-known regulator of blood glucose in the blood stream. The presence of both the hormones in the bloodstream would inform the brain through neurons (Proopiomelanocortin or POMC in this case) about the current and future fat scenario in the body. More leptin indicates more fat; and more insulin means more glucose, that would in turn mean the chance of more fat to be produced in the future.

Another key player in this ‘showy’ back-n-forth is the group of enzymes called phosphatases. The main function of these enzymes is to inhibit the functions of leptin and insulin. Thus reduced levels of phosphatases would also mean better fat burning. The consequence of all these actions in tandem is our centerpiece – the brain’s response by sending commands to convert white fat to brown fat.

In normal cases this pathway is instrumental in maintaining body weight, but goes haywire in people who havediet-induced obesity. Can we use this information already to treat obesity? Though a systematic treatment method or therapy coming out of this study is a long shot, it is quite promising to base further research on these two hormones, which can give groundbreaking insights in obesity research.

Photo: Reigh LeBlanc