Australian study highlights importance of liver in controlling weight

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd April 2012

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Austin Health have discovered that the liver can directly talk to the brain to control the amount of food we eat.

Dr Barbara Fam from the University’s Molecular Obesity Laboratory group at Austin Health with Associate Professor Sof Andrikopoulos say their discovery brings us one step closer to understanding how our bodies regulate fat and weight gain.

The study will be published in the Journal “Diabetes” in April.

The results of their study demonstrated that the liver, which has never been classed as an important organ in controlling body weight before, should be considered a target for treatment of weight gain.

A test on mice showed that over-expression of a specific enzyme in the liver resulted in 50 per cent less fat and the subjects ate less food than mice without the extra enzyme.

Study links FBPase enzyme to appetite


The study’s results suggest that consumption of a diet high in fat, causes an increase in an enzyme called FBPase in the liver, which is likely to limit further weight gain.

Dr Fam said, “We actually thought that the mouse with the over-expressed enzyme would show signs of becoming diabetic since the enzyme is important in producing more glucose from the liver.

“However, when we studied our mice in more depth, we were very surprised to see that this enzyme triggered a number of hormones that influence the control of appetite,” said Dr Fam. “The really striking result was that the genes in the brain, important in making us increase our food intake were actually reduced.”

Importantly, the research found that FBPase does not function to control body weight under normal physiological circumstances but acts only when the system is exposed to excess nutrients such as fat.

Dr Fam said, ”When people eat diets loaded with fat and sugars particularly over the long term, it can have a number of different effects on the body but it appears that we actually have in place an innate system that protects us from any further weight gain that could happen while eating these type of diets.”