The researches find that the A molecular “trick” that kept our ancient ancestors from starving may now be contributing to the obesity epidemic, a new study finds. In starvation times, researchers say; animals were more likely to survive if they could hoard and stretch out their stored energy. Even if an animal secured a rare feast; evolution smiled on the storage of excess fuel as fat, given the likelihood of a quick return to starvation.

Contributing to the obesity epidemic

They discovered an anti-starvation mechanism that has become a curse in times of plenty because it sees cellular stress created by overeating as similar to stress created by starvation and puts the brakes on our ability to burn fat;” says lead study author Ann Marie Schmidt, MD, the Dr. Iven Young Professor of Endocrinology at NYU School of Medicine.

Published online July 16 in Cell Reports; the current study reveals that the natural function of a protein called RAGE on the surface of fat cells is to stop the breakdown of stored fat in the face of stress. Its existence may partly explain why 70% of American adults are overweight or obese; according to the American Heart Association (AHA); the AHA announced a grant to help researchers find the elusive “metabolic brake.”

Natural function of a protein

The AHA funding followed a 2016 study that found contestants from America’s Greatest Loser gained back their lost pounds after the show ended. Why did their metabolisms slam to a halt in the face of weight loss; as if their bodies were bent on returning to obesity? According to the authors; the most efficient way for evolution to create an anti-starvation mechanism was from ancient systems that helped animals use food for cellular energy and recover from injury.

Also wired into these primal mechanisms was the hormone adrenalin, which signals for the conversion of fat into energy as animals run from predators,;or into body heat  when they get cold. This convergence through the same signaling proteins means that RAGE may block “fat burning” called for when we starve, freeze, get injured, panic; or ironically; overeat.

Blood sugar combine

According to the new study and experiments done elsewhere in human tissues; RAGE is turned on by the advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs); which form when blood sugar combines with proteins or fats most often in aging; diabetic and obese patients. Other molecules also activate RAGE; such as those released when cells die and spill their contents into intracellular spaces in response to stress.