URBANA If you're serious about losing weight, check out recent studies done in Elvira de Mejia's University of Illinois laboratory. Her research provides insight into the way a certain type of soy protein inhibits fat accumulation and reduces inflammation.
"We found that soybeans rich in beta-conglycinins limit lipid accumulation in fat cells by inhibiting an enzyme called fatty acid synthase. What's more, we have identified the specific peptides (digested proteins) that do this, and we are now beginning to understand the mechanism behind it. This is exciting research because it could lead to the development of nutraceuticals to fight obesity," said de Mejia, a U of I associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
The study was also the first to establish the anti-inflammatory properties of soy high in this type of protein. "The peptides fight inflammation by blocking key enzymes in the body's immune response," said the scientist.
de Mejia said that soy contains, among others, two types of protein, glycinins and beta-conglycinins, and the most important factor influencing a soy cultivar's healthful effects is the proportion in which they occur. Her research shows that soy that is low in glycinins and high in beta-conglycinins is preferred for its ability to inhibit lipid accumulation and inflammation.
"Using the latest molecular marker-assisted breeding techniques, soybeans with the right composition can be tagged and later identified using a simple leaf tissue sample. This would make it possible to create high-yielding cultivars that contained the 'slimming' trait for soybean farmers to grow in their fields," she said.
How did de Mejia discover that certain soybeans had this slimming effect? She had learned from her previous research that administration of soy protein caused weight loss in laboratory rats, but she wanted to know exactly why it happened.
She incubated human fat cells in the lab, t
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign