Researchers at UC Davis are studying how genes influence the amount of arachidonic acid (a fatty acid important in the synthesis of prostaglandins in the body) in the liver and muscle cells of a special strain of rats called Zucker rats. They found that rats that have inherited obese genes from both parents have decreased levels of arachidonic acid in their muscles and liver. These rats will become fat even when fed a very low calorie diet.
More importantly, researchers were able to reduce body weight and body fat in these obese rats by feeding them a special fatty acid supplement that increased arachidonic acid in their muscle cells. Researchers also found decreased arachidonic acid in the blood of obese humans.
They are studying the effectiveness of this special fatty acid supplement in maintaining lost weight in previously obese individuals.
Trials using leptin injection in humans are underway, and appear to be successful in patients who have ” leptin resistance”.
Other hormones such as neuropeptide Y, cholecystokinin, and glucagon like peptide 1 are also being actively explored as appetite suppressants in the treatment of obesity.
Scientists have made tremendous strides in understanding obesity and in improving the medication treatment of this important disease. In time, better, safer, and more effective obesity medications will be available. But currently there is still no “magic cure” for obesity. The best and safest way to lose fat and keep it off is through a commitment to a life long process of proper diet and regular exercise. Medications should be considered helpful adjuncts to diet and exercise for patients whose health risk from obesity clearly outweigh the potential side effects of the medications. Medications should be prescribed by doctors familiar with the patients’ conditions and with the use of the medications. Medication(s) and other “herbal” preparations with unproven effectiveness and safety should be avoided.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.