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5Spotlight   | Summer 2012

Fruit compound could block fat


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A compound found in red wine, grapes and other fruits is able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity, according to a Purdue University study.

Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science, and Jung Yeon Kwon, a graduate student in Kim's laboratory, found that the compound piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell's ability to develop and grow.

While similar in structure to resveratrol, the compound found in red wine, grapes and peanuts that is thought to combat cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases, piceatannol might be an important weapon against obesity. Resveratrol is converted to piceatannol in humans after consumption.

Kee-Hong Kim with wine being poured into a glass in the foreground
Kee-Hong Kim found that piceatannol, a compound found in red wine and several fruits, blocks immature fat cells from growing.

"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," Kim said. "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 stages to become mature fat cells, or adipocytes.

"These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," Kim said. "We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."

Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. Piceatannol essentially blocks the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.

By Brian Wallheimer

 

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