An enzyme involved in hormone production may help explain why obese people who carry most of their extra weight around their waist have such a high risk of heart disease and other health problems. The findings may lead to new approaches to treat obesity and its complications.
It is no news that obesity increases the risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, but where these extra pounds accumulate on the body also matters. So-called "apple-shaped" people, who tend to gain weight around the waist , are more likely to develop certain health conditions than "pear-shaped" people, whose extra pounds settle on their hips, buttocks and thighs.
Researchers studied the role of stress hormones and enzymes. One of particular interest was 11-beta HSD-1, which is involved in the formation of glucocorticoids. Alteration in the levels of this enzyme in mice produces not only obesity, but obesity especially of abdominal fat.
Since this enzyme is known to be similarly elevated in the fat of obese people, it is very likely that the same pathway is involved in many cases of human obesity. Blocking the enzyme may be an important new tool for treating obesity and its complications.