Damaging effects of fat reversed
Researchers have long known that overweight people are more likely to develop conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. In a new study researchers have uncovered evidence to explain how saturated fatty acids can lead to these chronic diseases.
Some fatty acids look like bacterial invaders, so the body mounts an immune response to them, causing inflammation. It is thought that this inflammation is the cause of the chronic conditions associated with obesity.
The researchers determined that a protein called TLR4 was key in causing this inflammatory response. Located on immune cells called macrophages, the protein recognises invaders and controls the further release of macrophages. The team used chemicals to destroy the macrophages in the bone marrow of a group of mice and then injected them with new macrophages that had been engineered without the TLR4 protein.
The team took the modified mice and normal mice, and fed them a high-fat diet. All the mice grew obese, but the mice without the TLR4 protein showed no sign of inflammation, and insulin levels were normal.
The team is currently looking for medicines that block TLR4, with the hope that one day it may be possible to take medication to dodge the adverse health effects of being overweight.