Sep 6, 2022
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Significant Sex Differences in Obesity Treatment in Mice Revealed

Significant Sex Differences in Obesity Treatment in Mice Revealed

The causes and consequences of obesity are varied, affecting different populations and individuals in unique ways based on their age, gender, genetics, and more. This means that scientists and clinicians need to consider individual factors when determining the most effective treatment for obesity for each patient.

A recent publication by Gee-Young Lee in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry takes a step towards such a personalized approach. Lee, professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, found that a potential treatment for obesity works in different parts of the body in male and female mouse models.

A lesser known molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) plays an important role in energy production in cells. And it can become one of the main treatments for obesity. When your cells break down glucose, the reaction releases hydrogen molecules. NAD+ captures these free hydrogen molecules, turning into NADH. NADH is then used to produce ATP in the mitochondria. It follows that obesity and other metabolic disorders are associated with low NAD+ levels.

Lee’s study examined the effects of giving mouse models a form of vitamin B3 known as nicotinamide riboside (NR), which the body converts to NAD+. In previous studies on male mice, Li found that feeding obese mice with NR prevented the development of fatty liver disease. But the effect on female mice was unknown. In the new study, Li and her team found a new difference – in female mice, NR treatment acted in adipose tissue, not in the liver.

“We recognized that males and females are biologically different, and any treatment can be different, any drug can be different,” Li says.

Adipocytes, or adipose tissue cells, were smaller in females fed NR. Enlarged adipocytes are a hallmark of obesity and its associated complications. NR treatment also increased the metabolic rate in mice. Lee observed higher levels of voluntary activity, such as wheel running, associated with this change.

These results highlight the growing importance of personalized nutrition that takes into account differences between patients, including gender.

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