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Energy-dense foods and dessert at the holiday table activate genes for obesity

A diet that is high in fat and in sugar can stimulate accumulation of fats more than usual inducing a "supersized fat-storing"

Energy denss foods hit you with a double-whammy as the already difficult task of converting high-fat and high-sugar foods to energy is made even harder because these foods also turn our bodies into "supersized fat-storing" machines.

In the research report, scientists show that foods high in fat and sugar stimulate a known opioid receptor, called the kappa opioid receptor, which plays a role in fat metabolism. When this receptor is stimulated, it causes our bodies to hold on to far more fat than our bodies would do otherwise.

To make this discovery, scientists conducted tests in two groups of mice. One group had the kappa opioid receptor genetically deactivated ("knocked out") and the other group was normal. Both groups were given a high fat, high sucrose, energy dense diet for 16 weeks. While the control group of mice gained significant weight and fat mass on this diet, the mice with the deactivated receptor remained lean. In addition to having reduced fat stores, the mice with the deactivated receptor also showed a reduced ability to store incoming nutrients.

Although more work is necessary to examine what the exact effects would be in humans, this research may help address the growing obesity problem worldwide in both the short-term and long-term. Most immediately, this research provides more proof that high-fat and high-sugar diets should be avoided. In the long-term, however, this research is even more significant, as it provides a new drug target for developing therapies for preventing obesity and helping obese people slim down.

by S. C.
04 january 2010, Technical Area > Science News