A compound in fruit that prevents immature fat cells developing could help control obesity, scientists believe.
The piceatannol compound, which is present in some fruits, including grapes, as well as red wine, hinders a juvenile fat cell from growing, shows a study from Purdue University, in Indiana, USA.
Piceatrannol has a similar structure to resveratrol, which is believed to fight cancer, prevent heart problems and lower inflammation and blood sugar levels. In humans, resveratrol is changed into piceatannol after being consumed.
The study at the West Lafayette university was led by food science assistant professor Kee-Hong Kim and graduate student Jung Yeon Kwon and is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Kee-Hong Kim says, "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. In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."
Over a period of 10 days or more, immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, go through several phases before they graduate into mature adipocyte fat cells, which are mainly made of adipose tissue, and specialise in storing energy as fat.
Kee-Hong Kim says that even though the immature cells have not built up lipids, they have the ability to become fat cells. He says adipogenesis - the process of cell differentiation by which preadipocyte precursor cells become adipocyte fat cells, is a vital molecular target that can slow down or prevent the build-up of fat cells and possibly body mass fat.
He discovered piceatannol attaches to insulin receptors belonging to juvenile fat cells that are in the early stages of adipogenesis, which prevents insulin from managing cell cycles and activing genes that enable additional phases of the formation of fat. In essence, piceatannol obstructs the pathways that allow precursor fat cells to increase.
Kee-Hong Kim has used cell culturing to confirm his findings, but in future he aims to see if it makes a difference on animal obesity. He was want to find ways of stopping the degeneration of piceatannol, so large concentrations can be directed into the bloodstream to prevent adipogenesis and increasing body fat.
The Purdue Research Foundation financed the study.
Piceatannol study; Credit: Purdue University