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

New blood test to detect liver damage in under an hour

May 24, 2018
A quick and robust blood test that can detect liver damage before symptoms appear has been designed and verified using clinical samples by a team from UCL and University of Massachusetts.

Gut bacteria play key role in anti-seizure effects of ketogenic diet

May 24, 2018
UCLA scientists have identified specific gut bacteria that play an essential role in the anti-seizure effects of the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. The study, published today in the journal Cell, is the first ...

Selective neural connections can be reestablished in retina after injury, study finds

May 24, 2018
The brain's ability to form new neural connections, called neuroplasticity, is crucial to recovery from some types of brain injury, but this process is hard to study and remains poorly understood. A new study of neural circuit ...

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

May 23, 2018
Astronauts go through many physiological changes during their time in spaceflight, including lower muscle mass and slower muscle development. Similar symptoms can occur in the muscles of people on Earth's surface, too. In ...

Eating at night, sleeping by day swiftly alters key blood proteins

May 21, 2018
Staying awake all night and sleeping all day for just a few days can disrupt levels and time of day patterns of more than 100 proteins in the blood, including those that influence blood sugar, energy metabolism, and immune ...

Hotter bodies fight infections and tumours better—researchers show how

May 21, 2018
The hotter our body temperature, the more our bodies speed up a key defence system that fights against tumours, wounds or infections, new research by a multidisciplinary team of mathematicians and biologists from the Universities ...

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.