People from every other part of the world have long wondered at the relative slim build of the French, particularly in light of the fact that they consume so much red wine, which is loaded with calories and sugar, not to mention all the cheese and bread. Research conducted at Purdue University and published in the March 30 issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry may provide another missing piece to this puzzle.
Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science, and Jung Yeon Kwon, a graduate student in Kim's laboratory at Purdue University believe they have isolated a compound in red wine that blocks cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method of controlling obesity. According to the researchers, the compound, called piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell's ability to develop and grow.
"Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early-stage fat cells become mature fat cells," Kim said. "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."
Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the earliest stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. Piceatannol appears to block the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.
These findings open a door to a possible method of controlling obesity. But Dr. Kim points out that these findings were based on a cell culture system and that further research, using an animal model of obesity will be needed to confirm and build on these findings.