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Grape compound may block the formation of fat cells

Grape compound may block the formation of fat cells

Tuesday, April 10, 2012. The March 30, 2012 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry published the finding of Purdue University researchers of the ability of a compound known as piceatannol to help prevent the formation of mature fat cells by blocking the pathways needed for their growth. Piceatannol is an analog of resveratrol, found in grapes and other fruit, which is converted to piceatannol in humans following its consumption.

Purdue assistant professor of food science Kee-Hong Kim and his associates tested piceatannol in cultured preadipocytes, which are immature fat cells. These cells pass through several stages before reaching maturity over a ten day or longer period. "These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," Dr Kim explained. "We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."

Dr Kim's team found that piceatannol bound to the preadipocytes' insulin receptors during their initial stage of fat cell formation, which blocked insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes necessary for the further stages of adipogenesis. "Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells," Dr Kim stated. "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."

"Our study reveals an antiadipogenic function of piceatannol and highlights insulin receptor and its downstream insulin signaling as novel targets for piceatannol in the early phase of adipogenesis," the authors conclude.

Dr Kim hopes to test piceatannol in an animal model as well as find a way to prevent the compound from degrading so that enough is available to the body to prevent fat gain. "We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect," he added.

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A letter published in the March 26, 2012 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine reveals the results of a study which found that adults who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who consumed it infrequently. Higher body mass index is a component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed data from 1,017 men and women aged 20 to 85 years who had no cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or abnormal low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels upon enrollment in the UCSD Statin Study, which examined the noncardiac effects of statin drugs. Participants were queried concerning how many times per week they consumed chocolate, and food frequency questionnaires were completed by the majority of subjects.

The participants in the current study consumed chocolate an average of twice per week. Although greater frequency of chocolate intake was associated with increased calorie consumption and saturated fat intake, those who consumed chocolate more often had a lower body mass index than those who consumed it infrequently in several adjusted models.

"Our findings—that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI—are intriguing," Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD and her colleagues write. "They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI."

"A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited," they conclude.

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