Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada have warned that belly fat may predispose people to develop hunger pangs leading to extra weight gain as they consume more food.
Boffins from the institute, which is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario, found that abdominal fat tissue is a new source of appetite stimulant, and that it can reproduce a hormone called Neuropeptide Y (NPY) that stimulates fat cell production.
The finding is significant as it was previously thought that NPY is only produced by the brain. The new discovery has lead author Dr. Yaiping Yang and his colleagues believing that new therapeutic targets for combating obesity may soon be possible.
A fat cell cannot duplicate itself. The boffins noted that NPY increases fat cell number by stimulating the replication of fat cell precursor cells, which then change into fat cells.
"This may lead to a vicious cycle where NPY produced in the brain causes you to eat more and therefore gain more fat around your middle, and then that fat produces more NYP hormone which leads to even more fat cells," says Yang.
Because of its anatomical location and its byproducts, abdominal fat or the apple-shape is known to be the most dangerous kind of fat.
People predisposed to the apple shape are at an elevated risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers.
The findings were reported in a recent issue of The FASEB Journal.