New study reveals how breakfast affects fat cells

Regularly eating breakfast affects the body’s fat cells by decreasing the activity of genes involved in fat metabolism and increasing how much sugar they take up, according to new research from researchers in the University of Bath’s Department for Health. The paper, published in The Journal of Physiology, also shows some important links to diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

The University of Bath reports the team, which involved colleagues in Nottingham, found that fat in obese people responds less to insulin, which regulates blood sugar, than lean people do. Importantly, this decrease is proportional to the person’s total amount of body fat.

For six weeks, the researchers asked forty nine adults (twenty nine lean and twenty obese) to either eat breakfast every day before eleven am or fast until midday. Participants in the breakfast cohort were asked to consume three hundred and fifty kilocalories within two hours of waking and at least seven hundred calories by eleven am every day.

Before and after the six weeks, the researchers measured metabolism, body composition, appetite responses and markers of metabolic and cardiovascular health. They also measured participants’ fat for the activity of forty four different genes and key proteins, and studied the ability of the fat cells to take up glucose in response to insulin.

Lead author, Lecturer in Human Physiology Dr Javier Gonzalez, said “By better understanding how fat responds to what and when we eat, we can more precisely target those mechanisms. We may be able to uncover new ways to prevent the negative consequences of having a large amount of body fat, even if we cannot get rid of it. Since participants ate high-carb breakfasts, we cannot necessarily extrapolate our findings to other types of breakfasts, particularly those with high protein content. Our future studies will also explore how breakfast interacts with other lifestyle factors such as exercise.”

The researchers now hope the research will lead to uncovering new ways to improve health by changing the timing of when people eat.

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