TUESDAY, April 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A natural protein might help the body rid itself of fat while suppressing appetite.
Researchers say the protein, called ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), acts directly with muscles, boosting the body's fat-burning ability as it helps protect against some of the effects of obesity.
"While hormones such as leptin were initially thought to be the cure-all for weight loss, they were later found to be ineffective in obesity due to the presence of proteins which inhibit their ability to stimulate fat metabolism. Fortunately, CNTF's effects on fat burning are maintained," research leader Dr. Greg Steinberg, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, said in a prepared statement.
Reporting in this week's issue of Nature Medicine, his team found that CNTF activates an enzyme called skeletal muscle AMP kinase, which in turns boosts the body's ability to metabolize fat and sugar. The pathways activated by CNTF are similar to those activated by exercise. The findings may help in the development of new ways to reduce the risk of metabolic abnormalities associated with excess weight.
The study was funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Until recently, most obesity research has concentrated on the regulation of appetite by hormones such as leptin.
"Dr. Steinberg's finding is significant because this new pathway that overcomes leptin resistance opens the door to a more promising avenue for the development of a therapeutic anti-obesity agent," Dr. Diane Finegood, scientific director of the CIHR's Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, said in a prepared statement.
The U.S. Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains the health risks of being overweight.