The end of yo-yo dieting? Researchers uncover brain switch that controls fat burning

February 13, 2018, Monash University
Alex Reichenbach (Monash PhD student) and Associate Professor Zane Andrews. Credit: Monash University

Scientists have discovered a molecular switch in the brain that regulates fat burning - and could provide a way to control weight gain following dieting.

Monash University researchers have identified a in the brain that potentially controls the human body's capacity to store fat, particularly after long periods of "famine" or weight loss - a process that underlies yo-yo , where we regain the weight lost caused by dieting.

Being able to control this switch may be a therapy for obesity and other metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes.

Associate Professor Zane Andrews and his colleagues at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute have identified a protein in mice, called carnitine acetyltransferase (Crat), in hunger-processing brain cells that regulate after dieting. These findings were published today in the international journal Cell Reports.

When we are dieting (or evolutionarily when there is a famine) our bodies burn more fat to provide enough energy. But at the same time our brains fight to conserve energy and, as soon as food becomes available, the body switches from burning to storing fat and instead uses ingested calories from food. The international research team discovered the Crat protein and developed a mouse that had this protein genetically switched off. These mice, when fasted or fed after a fast, consume their fat reserves at a greater than normal rate.

According to Associate Professor Andrews, repeated dieting, or , may lead to weight gain because the brain interprets these diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages. For the first time the Crat protein in hunger-processing brain cells has been identified as the switch that instructs the body to replace the lost weight through increased fat storage.

"Manipulating this protein offers the opportunity to trick the brain and not replace the lost weight through increased appetite and storage of fat," Associate Professor Andrews said.

"By regulating this protein we can ensure that diet-induced stays off rather than sneaking back on."

Explore further: Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss

More information: Cell Reports (2018). doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.01.067

Related Stories

Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss

September 19, 2017
Avoiding continuous dieting may be the key to losing weight and keeping the kilos off, the latest University of Tasmania research shows.

Why our brain cells may prevent us burning fat when we're dieting

May 23, 2017
A study carried out in mice may help explain why dieting can be an inefficient way to lose weight: key brain cells act as a trigger to prevent us burning calories when food is scarce.

Enzyme plays a key role in calories burned both during obesity and dieting

February 8, 2018
Ever wonder why obese bodies burn less calories or why dieting often leads to a plateau in weight loss? In both cases the body is trying to defend its weight by regulating energy expenditure. Until now, how this happens has ...

Yo-yo dieting might cause extra weight gain

December 5, 2016
Repeated dieting may lead to weight gain because the brain interprets the diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages, new research by the universities of Exeter and Bristol suggests.

What thin people don't understand about dieting

December 27, 2017
Diets do not work.

How dieting encourages your body to replace lost weight

August 3, 2017
Obesity is a risk factor for numerous disorders that afflict the human race, so understanding how to maintain a healthy body weight is one of the most urgent issues facing society. By 2025, it is estimated that 18 percent ...

Recommended for you

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.