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Altered Genes Prove Leaner Doesn't Always Mean Healthier

The genetically engineered mice that have been created at the University of Michigan Medical School are living every dieter's dream. They can eat unlimited amounts of high-fat food, but have about half as much as normal mice on a low-fat diet. Moreover, they show no signs of diabetes or other metabolic disorders, common in animals with too little fat.

Before you reach for the phone, these genetically altered mice are leaner than normal mice, but they also have some less-than-desirable characteristics:

  • Underdeveloped mammary glands
  • An inability to generate body heat
  • Skin that's twice as thick as normal

All these changes appear to be caused by a protein called Wnt10b, present in artificially high amounts in fat tissue from the experimental mice. Wnt10b is one of a family of 19 related proteins. Wnts regulate the complex changes that take place as an embryo grows.

Part of this process is the development of fatty adipose tissue, which contains fat cells called adipocytes. Now, in the first study in living animals, scientists have found have demonstrated that Wnt10b has the same effect on fatty tissue in mice.

Scientists caution not to expect any kind of pill anytime soon that will give you the ability to eat whatever you want. But if you understand the basics of nutritional typing, you'll eat the best and healthiest foods and never need to take a pill to be healthy.

Science Daily June 30, 2004

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