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New obesity study implies antioxidant power


Related topics: Health and nutritional ingredients, Science

New findings from Japanese researchers could help society understand the mechanistic role of obesity in the metabolic syndrome and could eventually help stem the obesity epidemic.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition marked by a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control, low HDL 'good' cholesterol and high blood fats. The constellation of health conditions increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Classed as an epidemic by the UN-backed World Health Organisation, at least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, a figure likely to more than double to 366 million by 2030.

IIichiro Shimomura and colleagues from Osaka University, Japan, claim that fat cells of obese mice produce increased levels of toxic oxygen molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) as well as the enzyme NADPH oxidase.

The scientists found that treatment of these mice with apocynin - an antioxidant that inhibits NADPH oxidase - reduced ROS production in fat cells, restored adipocytokine production to normal, improved diabetes, and reduced the levels of fat present in the blood and liver.

Although it is too early to suggest that taking antioxidants may counter the development of obesity-associated metabolic syndrome, 'the steps leading to excess ROS generation may represent a potentially useful therapeutic target,' say the researchers, who reported their findings in the 15 December issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The role of antioxidants in preventing health conditions is widely documented, and gaining pace with each new study published.

Linked in some research to reduced risk for cancers, especially prostate cancer, the health-boosting carotenoid antioxidant lycopene has attracted significant attention in recent years. A recent report on the $348.5 million (€291.4m) carotenoid market set to grow to €349.3 million in 2010 from market analysts Frost & Sullivan revealed that the European food and health industry, has 'under-utilised' the nutraceutical properties of carotenoids, and consumers are still unaware of their health benefits.

Frost & Sullivan claims that carotenoids are still used primarily as a colouring agent for the food and feed industries. Consumers in most European regions are unaware of their use as a food fortifier and this poor level of public awareness about the health benefits of carotenoids is expected to stifle market growth in the short term.