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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fat Rats Give Us The Skinny on Ghrelin

The Scripps Research Institute released a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month touting the positive effects of a vaccine that inhibits the protein ghrelin (which is linked to weight gain) in its test rats. Once vaccinated, the rats ate normally, yet gained less weight and less body fat than non-vaccinated rats.

Why should we care about skinnier rats? Because humans have this same protein, which means the vaccine may work for them too.

But before you run out the door to your local research lab and beg for ghrelin-inhibiting shots, read the whole article. Turns out that the vaccine works best when the rats ate low-fat, low-energy, ‘less palatable’ diets.

Hmm …

This begs the question in my mind: How much work does the vaccine actually do? As the Trafon blog always points out, healthier diets can curb excessive weight gain at the very least; stimulate weight loss at the very most; and prevent a whole host of other GI-related issues in between.

Incidentally, how did the researchers reach that odd, undefined ‘less palatable’ conclusion? Did they ask the rats? Sample the food themselves? Contrary to popular belief, healthier cooking can be quite tasty, even indulgent. Bon appetit, and please … don’t pass the ghrelin or the vaccine.


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