Mice Fed High-Fat Diets Can Avoid Weight Gain, If They Also Eat A Lot Of This Nutrient

Mice looking to watch their figures don’t necessarily have to give up their high-fat diets. Sometimes, non-caloric factors play a big role in weight loss and weight gain. According to a team at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, mice that were fed this one savory food additive along with high-fat food managed to keep their weight off as well as mice that were fed a normal diet. Cured pastrami-lovers and bacon-lovers watching their waistlines can begin rejoicing now. That food additive that seemingly prevented mice from getting fat when they ate diets high in fat, is salt.

Public health efforts that have zeroed in on eliminating salt intake might have had unintended consequences, according to Medical News Today. Apparently, like many things in life, foods work together to create a different effect than they would singularly.

“People focus on how much fat or sugar is in the food they eat, but [in our experiments] something that has nothing to do with caloric content — sodium — has an even bigger effect on weight gain,” Justin Grobe, assistant professor of pharmacology and co-author of the study, said, according to a press release from University of Iowa Health Care.

“We found out that our ‘french fry’ hypothesis was perfectly wrong.”

It seems as though the researchers may have even figured out why the mice gained less weight when they ate diets high in fat and high in salt, and the reason is really interesting. They looked at four key factors that could affect how much fat the mice were putting on. They say that the salt influences how well the mice digested their food and how much fat they actually absorbed.

“This suppression of weight gain with increased sodium was due entirely to a reduced efficiency of the digestive tract to extract calories from the food that was consumed,” Grobe explained. On second thought, maybe bacon-lovers should hold off on their victory dances. Plus, the researchers said that just because the mice fed high fat diets with extra salt didn’t get fat, doesn’t mean that they avoided possible cardiovascular disease risks from the high-salt chow.

The team says that they could take this information and use it to develop a new anti-obesity treatment. Perhaps the biggest lesson to take from this story, according to the researchers, is that we are still “just starting to understand complex interactions between nutrients and how they affect calorie absorption, and it is important for scientists investigating the health effects of diet to analyze diets that are more complex than those currently used in animal experiments and more accurately reflect normal eating behavior.”

Grobe says the most important thing to take away from this study of mice and how their salt intake affects how much fat they put on is this: When we examine public health and nutrition policies, including (but not limited to) fat and salt, we need to “support continued and nuanced discussions” over blanket statements, because we are still just beginning to learn about these complex interactions.

[Photo via Pixabay]