Researchers also studied fat tissue from human surgery patients and found the same enzyme was present in human tissue, and its levels were markedly higher in cells extracted from the visceral fat tissue of obese women compared to cells from lean women.
Finally, the study suggested that estrogen suppresses the enzyme's activity, which might help explain why postmenopausal women with decreased estrogen in their bodies tend to accumulate fat in their bellies.
The research is published online in the journal Diabetes.
The hormonal effect seen in these mice relates at least in part to how the female body processes vitamin A, a nutrient that is converted into a variety of compounds. These include a molecule that supports the burning of fat for energy, as well as retinoic acid, the hormone in this study that leads to the formation of visceral fat. The scientists showed that a high-fat diet functions as a switching mechanism that breaks down the fat-burning molecule and leads to activation of the enzyme and production of retinoic acid, ending in the development of visceral fat.
A year ago, Ziouzenkova's lab identified the one of these enzymes that relates to fat accumulation: Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1, or Aldh1a1. In the current study, she and colleagues conducted numerous experiments in mice to track the events that followed activation of this enzyme.
The researchers compared normal mice with genetically altered mice lacking the enzyme over almost a year of eating a high-fat diet. Male and female normal mice gained weight on the high-fat diet, as expected, though the females developed more visceral fat that surrounds the organs than did males, a trend also seen in humans as the result of eating excess fat. (In contrast, on a regular diet, men are more likely than women to form abdominal fat.) Both sexes of mice developed peripheral subcutaneous fat, which
|Contact: Ouliana Ziouzenkova|
Ohio State University