Melanin may protect against obesity related chronic diseases

November 7th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 7 (IANS) Samples from the morbidly obese undergoing weight loss surgery showed that melanin - a pigment giving skin and hair their distinctive colour - was being produced in their fat tissue. Ancha Baranova, assistant professor in George Mason University department of microbiology and the study’s co-author, explained that melanin production has never before been identified in fat tissue.

She believes the antioxidant, having anti-inflammatory properties, could be the body’s natural defence against obesity-related conditions such as type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and some cancers.

“Stockpiling extra calories is difficult even for specialized fat cells; having too much lipid molecules takes its toll on the fat cells, producing oxidative stress,” said Baranova.

“It’s not unthinkable that these cells would adapt and produce melanin as a form of self-protection. As a side benefit, melanin may suppress inflammatory properties of the extra pounds of the fat,” she said.

Baranova noted that a larger study is needed in order to confirm the role that the body’s production of this compound plays in fat tissue. However, the discovery suggests that melanin-based therapies may one day be used to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases among the morbidly obese, according to George Mason release.

These findings appeared in the current Web edition of the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal and will be published in the March 2009 print edition.

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