Key words Obesity – feeding control – adipogenesis – thermogenesis – obesity genes
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
Summary Obesity could well become the most common health problem of the 21st century. There are more opportunities to consume large quantities of food: big portions of tasty, varied food, at reasonable prices, are available everywhere. Moreover, our bodies are better adapted to combat weight loss than to combat weight gain, since for thousands of years our species evolved in circumstances where nutrients were in short supply. The response of each individual to diet and other environmental factors varies considerably, depending on the characteristics of his/her body weight control mechanism. The differentiating element in the future, especially as regards the dietary and pharmacological control of obesity, will be knowledge of an individual's possible response depending on his/her genetic background. Obesity can occur as a result of genetic or acquired changes in three main types of biochemical processes, which are the main focus of this review: a) feeding control, which determines the sensations of satiety and hunger through processes that depend on a interplay between internal signals (notably leptin) and environmental factors; b) energy efficiency, in particular the activation of thermogenesis mediated by uncoupling proteins (UCPs) that makes it possible to dissipate part of the energy contained in food as heat instead of accumulating it as fat, and c) adipogenesis, the process by which cells specialised in fat storage (adipocytes) are formed, which is controlled by an interplay of transcription factors, including memebers of the C/EBP, PPARγ and ADD families. The knowledge of a growing numbers of genes and molecules implicated in these three types of processes and of their metabolic relationships is leading toward a molecular understanding of the body weight regulatory system and is paving the way for new methods of obesity control, especially pharmacological but also nutritional and possibly involving genetic intervention.
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