If you’re overweight and feel like you’re hungry all the time, you may be on to something. Dr. Kaiping Yang and his colleagues at the Lawson Health Research Institute who are affilated with the University of Western Ontario, believe belly fat could be making you hungrier. According to a study conducted by Yang and the Ontario researchers, a hormone known as Neuropeptide Y (NPY) thought to be solely produced by the brain has also been discovered to be produced by abdominal fat tissue.
Although a fat cell can’t reproduce itself, researchers learned “NPY increases fat cell numbers by stimulating the replication of fat cell precursor cells, which then change into fat cells.” This results in a vicious cycle where NPY in the brain causes you to eat more and gain more weight, while the NPY in the belly fat produces more NYP hormone and that makes you even fatter.
According to Obesity in America, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It also increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other complications. Currently, approximately 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight, 60 million are obese with a BMI over 30, and 9 million peole are extremely obese with a BMI over 40. (To calculate your belly fat, read How Much Belly Fat is Too Much). However, belly fat, or being apple-shaped, is even more dangerous for people already predisposed to diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Yang and his colleagues now want to know “whether NPY produced by fat is released into the body’s circulatatory system…[and] if NPY could potentially be transported in the blood to the brain where it in turn has an impact on the brain to stimulate hunger.” If that’s the case, Yang believes NPY levels could be detected early enough that a therapy could be enacted and the NPY turned off, thereby preventing belly fat and obesity.