Despite all of the amazing discoveries science has made, we are still trying to understand the human body. For example, this time last year, scientists defined a new human organ, the mesentery. Now, scientists might finally have an answer to why prolonged periods of sitting are linked to increased fat storage. Humans might have a mechanism that acts as internal weight scale.
Scientists probed this mechanism by attaching weights to the appendages of obese mice. The mice experienced decreased blood glucose levels, and lost the same amount of weight as had been added. Something in the body detected the increased weight and signaled the body to eat less, resulting in a weight loss.
Osteocytes are likely responsible. Osteocytes are cells in our bones involved with bone formation, remodeling after breaks, and calcium deposition. When this study was conducted using mice that lacked osteocytes, the mice didn’t decrease their food consumption. Extrapolating to human sitting, when we take the weight off our legs – off our osteocytes – the osteocytes detect less weight than normal and signal the body to eat more . If sitting means our body always wants to eat, it’s easy to see how this mechanism would promote obesity.
The role of osteocytes in our health has been known for a while. Osteocytes detect stress and strain in our bones and are responsible for making our bones stronger as a result of exercise. However, this is the first study showing that osteocytes play a role in metabolism and controlling our appetites. Even more, this study highlights how completely different systems in our body can still be connected.
Managing Correspondent: Zane Wolf
Original Article: PNAS
Image Credit: StartStanding.org