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Fat yet muscular mouse provides clues to improving cardiovascular health
Date:11/22/2010

A fat yet muscular mouse is helping researchers learn whether more muscle improves the cardiovascular health of obese individuals.

"We are looking for ways to counteract the unhealthy effects of fat," said Dr. David Stepp, vascular biologist at the Medical College of Georgia Vascular Biology Center and co-director of MCG's Diabetes & Obesity Discovery Institute.

Obesity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes, which essentially doubles the cardiovascular risk. But Stepp's laboratory research indicates more muscle could reduce that risk a theory bolstered by people who appear "fit and fat." He recently received a $450,000 exploratory grant from the National Institutes of Health to further explore the possibilities.

The fact is that people and mice with more muscle have more blood vessels, use more oxygen and energy and eliminate more glucose even sitting still than their flabbier counterparts. "Fat does not consume a lot of energy and it's not very vascular," Stepp said. "Muscle and nerves, on the other hand, generate electricity, which is one of the most energetically expensive things we do." The heart and blood vessels also thrive with increased blood flow and diabetes risk is reduced by muscles' glucose disposal capabilities.

"The question is, if nothing else changes, if you are still fat and inactive, does having big muscles improve metabolic and cardiovascular function," Stepp said.

If the answer is "yes," myostatin inhibitors, already under study for muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy, could help break the unhealthy vicious cycle of inactivity promoting obesity and obesity impeding exercise. "Giving someone myostatin inhibitors is not going to magically fix their problems, but it may give them a little bit of a performance edge that gets them up and moving," Stepp said, particularly the heaviest individuals.

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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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