German and American researchers believe a specific protein may be to blame for weight gain not caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. Called p62, the scientists noticed that mice which lacked the protein in every part of their body were heavier than those who lacked the protein in just one organ. “They also had metabolic syndrome. In other words, as compared to mice with p62, mice lacking p62 weighed more, expended less energy, had diabetes and had a hyper-inflammatory response that’s characteristic of obesity.” The notable exception was brown (or healthy) fat. Mice lacking p62 in their brown fat were also obese.
What’s the Big Idea?
The difference between brown and white (or unhealthy) fat is important for biologists who study weight gain. “White fat is the type we think of as unwanted body fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, is beneficial because it burns calories. Many researchers now believe that brown fat somehow malfunctions in obesity, but the details are unclear.” Because the absence of p62 in brown fat correlated with weight gain, scientists now want to test whether injecting more p62 into areas like the brain, which contain relatively large amounts of brown fat, will aid in weight reduction.