Fat signals control energy levels in the brain

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From the WUSTL Newsroom…

An enzyme secreted by the body’s fat tissue controls energy levels in the brain, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings, in mice, underscore a role for the body’s fat tissue in controlling the brain’s response to food scarcity, and suggest there is an optimal amount of body fat for maximizing health and longevity.

The study appears April 23 in the journal Cell Metabolism.

“We showed that fat tissue controls brain function in a really interesting way,” said senior author Shin-ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology and of medicine. “The results suggest that there is an optimal amount of fat tissue that maximizes the function of the control center of aging and longevity in the brain. We still don’t know what that amount is or how it might vary by individual. But at least in mice, we know that if they don’t have enough of a key enzyme produced by fat, an important part of the brain can’t maintain its energy levels.”

The findings may help explain the many studies that show a survival benefit to having a body mass index toward the low end of what is considered overweight.

“As we age, people who are slightly overweight tend to have fewer problems,” Imai said. “No one knows why people categorized as being slightly overweight tend to have a lower mortality rate. But our study suggests that if you don’t have an optimal amount of fat, you are affecting a part of the brain that is particularly important for controlling metabolism and aging.”

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Posted on April 27, 2015
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