Many of us have noticed that our tendency to gain weight increases as we age. The weight gain and weight loss are easier at young ages as compared to middle ages. The general perception says that the body is not young enough to put that much effort.
Also, the poor lifestyle habits make us gain weight more and prevent to lose weight. This new study, however, suggests that there is this enzyme responsible for the midlife weight gain. Let’s understand how.
As we age, our body tends to gain weight on stubborn areas such as the belly, thighs, hips etc. The study tells that this weight can be prevented when we inhibit the functioning of a certain body enzyme. Though it seems unrealistic the research provides an evidence for it.
There are billions of people that struggle with weight gain and obesity. Not just in the USA but they are spread across the globe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports one-third of the US population to be obese. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally, almost 2 billion adults are overweight.
Weight gain and obesity can be managed by following a controlled diet and regular exercise but sometimes the weight is stuck and it frustrates a person. Despite all the efforts, the weight scale shows no good news.
For instance, the people tend to gain more weight as they age, particularly the abdominal fat. If not controlled, it becomes stubborn and is called a midlife weight gain.
The estimation says that the average U.S. adult gains 30 pounds of weight between the ages of 20 and 50, even if they eat less during this period. This intrigued a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who investigated the mechanism behind this weight gain.
Dr. Jay H. Chung, Ph.D. who is the head of the Laboratory of Obesity and Aging Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, led this team. This research was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
A specific enzyme responsible for weight gain
Chung and his team investigated the biochemical transformations in animals during their middle ages. The age at which these animals were studied was estimated to be the equivalent of 45 human years old. The enzyme responsible for weight gain was called DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) that becomes more active as you age.
The researchers also found that this DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) coverts nutrients into fat and also reduce the number of mitochondria in a cell. Mitochondria, as you know, are the powerhouses of the cells.
These are small compartment like structures that turn food into energy and break down waste the products. More than 90% of energy requirement of a cell for growth comes from mitochondria. You can say that it plays a crucial role in the life or death of a cell.
When we are young, the number of mitochondria in our body is high. That is why the youthful energy that we feel decreases with age. When the body starts aging, this number starts to reduce. From midlife onwards, the number of mitochondria gradually decrease.
Due to less mitochondrion, a person suffers from weight gain and a mitochondrial dysfunction decreases the ability to exercise. Read a research on these findings by clicking here.
In this scenario, the role of DNA-PK enzyme was studied on mice models. They were divided into two groups; one was given a high-fat diet. One group received an inhibitor that blocked the DNA-PK enzyme and the other group was not given this.
The group, which received DNA-PK enzyme inhibitor, gained 40% less weight than the other group, which wasn’t given DNA-PK enzyme inhibitor. Also, the drug increased fitness and decreased the risk of obesity and diabetes on study models.
Last but not the least, this inhibitor also increased the number of mitochondria in the mice’s skeletal muscle, enabling them to be more energetic.
Significance of these reults
This study may pave a path for the development of new obesity medication. As obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, this research may help to develop a medicine that helps against obesity while battling for the chronic conditions of heart, neuro-degenerative diseases and cancer.