Human body may have an internal weight scale, study reports

Researchers have found that the human body may be able to internally regulate its weight.
By Joseph Scalise | Jan 02, 2018
The human body may have an internal scale that senses how much a person weighs, allowing it to regulate fat mass and adapt as a person gains or sheds pounds.

In the new research, a group of scientists from the University of Gothenburg implanted capsules into the abdomens of obese rats and mice. Half of the rodents were given "heavy" capsules that were equivalent to 15 percent of their body weight, while the other group had empty capsules that acted as the control.

After a two week period, the team found that all of the mice had the same total body weight. That meant the animals implanted with weight capsules had shed roughly 80 percent of the equivalent amount of fat.

To figure out why both groups of rats lost equal amounts of weight, researchers conducted a series of tests that revealed the rodents with heavy capsules did not have more brown fat or increased energy expenditure. Rather, they simply ate less. Scientists then followed up on that comparison by feeding the amount of food that the weighted mice ate to another group of unweighted mice. Those mice lost the same amount of weight.

"Removal of the loading increased the biological body weight and the fat mass, but not the skeletal muscle mass, demonstrating that the body-weight sensor is functional in both directions," the researchers wrote in their paper, according to Live Science.

While researchers are not yet sure how the weight sensor operates, their research showed that cells found in weight-bearing bones known as osteocytes seem to be behind the process.

If the trend found in the study holds up in humans it could explain why people gain weight when they sit for long periods of time, and may also help lead to new treatments for obesity.

"The weight of the body is registered in the lower extremities," said study co-author John-Olov Jansson, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, in a statement. "If the body weight tends to increase, a signal is sent to the brain to decrease food intake and keep the body weight constant."

This new research is published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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