Obesity affects more than 42 percent of U.S. adults and 19 percent of U.S. kids, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017-18.
Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that is harmful to one’s health.
A Clemson University research team is making progress in determining the relationship between specific enzymes produced naturally in the body and their involvement in obesity management and liver disease treatment.
Male mice without the Cyp2b enzyme were studied by three Clemson researchers and Emory University School of Medicine colleagues to see how the enzyme’s absence affected the mice’s metabolism. A simple discovery triggered the study: male mice lacking the Cyp2b enzyme were gaining weight. Female Cyp2b-null mice did not have the same effect as male Cyp2b-null mice.
While the researchers were tipped off by a simple observation, it turned out that unraveling the interactions behind the weight gain would be far more difficult. The intricacies of numerous chemical processes involving the CYP enzyme, which is part of an enzyme superfamily that serves multiple tasks in humans, were noticed. They claim that the Cyp2b enzymes aid in the metabolization of some poisons and medications so that they can be eliminated from the body.
However, those same CYP enzymes have additional functions. Bile acids, steroid hormones, and polyunsaturated fats from our diet are all metabolized by them. The researchers also looked into the link between sickness and “perturbed lipid profiles.” Changes in the lipidome have a significant impact on disease susceptibility and general health, according to the study.
Obesity is caused by high-fat diets, such as the Western diet, which radically modify the hepatic lipidome, and abnormal lipid profiles are linked to particular liver illnesses such nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis . The lead research author had previously looked into the link between food and environmental pollutants. The most recent study looked at how these metabolic processes are affected by aging and food.
“What does a poor diet do to us? What does age do to us? That’s kind of the idea here,” Baldwin said of the latest research. “We’re looking at these enzymes; what might happen over time to our profiles in this mouse model compared to just a wild-type mouse. What might happen over time with a high-fat diet, what might happen as we age, and how does it differ between this one mouse model, which doesn’t have these enzymes, compared to one that does have these enzymes.”
Simply put, Baldwin said, “One of the things that we saw, and not surprisingly, is that getting older is bad. It’s tougher for the mice to regulate body weight. They gain weight. The weight that they have is more white adipose tissue [connective tissue mainly comprising fat cells]. And some of these things were a little bit worse in the mice that lacked the Cyp2b enzymes. They were a little bit heavier. They had a little more fat than their counterparts. Their livers were a little bit bigger and a little bit less healthy. So they had a lot of those things that we associate with age going on.”
Diet had an effect on the mice’s health as well. According to Baldwin, the exact mechanism through which the Cyp2b enzyme functions is unknown.
“Of course, diet didn’t help, as well,” Baldwin continued. “It’s the same case: Eating a poor diet caused weight gain, and it was a little worse with these [Cyp2b-null] mice, probably because of poor metabolism.”