High Fat Diet May Aid Weight Loss

A high fat diet full of fatty foods that contain the SCD1 enzyme may increase metabolism and aid in weight loss, says a new study published in The Journal of Lipid Research.

Researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University recently looked at the role that a high fat diet plays in health, specifically metabolism and weight loss. Although the popular mantra is that a high fat diet leads to weight gain, the researchers discovered the a high fat diet containing high amounts of certain fats actually increases metabolism and aids in weight loss.

Using a transgenic mouse model, the researchers a high fat diet with high levels of fatty foods containing the stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD1) enzyme resulted in mice that weighed less and were more active. The SCD1 enzyme converts saturated fat into monounsaturated fat, which is easier for the body to metabolize. SCD1 is a protein that is encoded by the SCD gene in humans.

To study the effects of the high fat diet, the researchers used genetically modified mice. According to Chad Paton, an assistant professor of nutritional biochemistry in the Department of Nutrition, Hospitality and Retailing who worked on the study:

"We used a transgenic mouse model, and we took the gene that makes the enzyme that's not normally expressed and took away it's regulation to make it active all the time. What we found in those animals is they had a hypermetabolic rate compared to the wild mice, increased energy consumption and greatly increased these animals' exercise capacity."

Paton continues:

"We found in the genetically modified animals that they had a hypermetabolic rate. They were increasing their energy consumption, and they experienced greatly increased exercise capacity. For example, on the exercise wheels, normal mice fatigue after 7 to 10 minutes. These genetically modified animals wouldn't fatigue for about 70 minutes. So they were running a lot longer. Sedentary mice looked more like exercise-trained mice. That really made us look in a lot more detail what was happening in the skeletal muscle."

The genetically modified mice ultimately had higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, particularly linoleic acid. (Linoleic acid is also available in high amounts from foods such as salicornia oil, safflower oil, poppyseed oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, and hemp oil.) Increased levels of linoleic acid produces a protein that prompts cells to burn up excess energy from food as heat, thus increasing metabolism and aiding weight loss.

As the researchers conclude, these findings are significant for humans because, although human genes cannot be modified, a supplement could be created to achieve the same outcome.