An international research team from the Universities of Marburg (Germany) and Otago (New Zealand), led by Dr. Alex Tups presented new evidence of a link between inflammatory processes in the brain and type II diabetes. The study entitled “Central inhibition of IKKβ/NF-κB signalling attenuates high fat diet-induced obesity and glucose intolerance,” published online in the journal Diabetes, shows that blocking brain inflammation attenuates diet-induced obesity.
The hypothalamus in the brain regulates appetite and food intake, thus playing a major role in body weight and glucose metabolism. The inflammation in the hypothalamus caused by a high-fat diet is known to be involved in obesity and insulin resistance. However, while there is substantial evidence supporting the hypothalamic inflammation theory, research that combines the use of nutritive agents and a gene-therapeutic approach to determine whether direct modulation of this phenomenon results in metabolic improvements is lacking.
In this study, by using two different approaches to control brain inflammation, the researchers showed they could improve glucose tolerance and prevent High Fat Diet (HFD)-induced weight gain in obese mice. Butein is a flavonoid found in herbs with both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities, and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Brain or oral administration of butein lowered glucose levels in two different experimental obese mouse models: one developed obesity due to a deficiency in the satiety hormone leptin, and the other due to a high-fat diet. Another strategy used gene therapy to inhibit a well established (IKKβ/NF-κB) inflammatory signaling pathway directly in hypothalamic neurons. Again, mice were protected from HFD-induced weight gain and showed a reduction in body fat mass. The authors suggest that both treatments, by reducing inflammation in the hypothalamus, may restore sensitivity to leptin.
“Our data strongly supports the hypothalamic inflammation theory and might provide novel tools to combat HFD-induced metabolic disorders,” concluded the authors. Further investigation will confirm the potential of butein and other natural compounds as anti-diabetic treatments.
In other developments in obesity, EnteroMedics Inc. recently announced that the U.S. FDA has approved VBLOC® vagal blocking therapy for the treatment of obese adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 and 45 kg/m2, or BMI between 35 and 39.9 kg/m2, and with a weight-related health condition, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure; or those who tried to lose weight through other supervised programs in the last five years, with minimal success. This therapy is delivered through the Maestro® System.