Mitochondrial Protein Makes You Healthy and Fat

While some readers may be hoping for the latest diet breakthrough, researchers have now discovered an even easier way to get those calories straight from your lips to your hips.

Thus, according to a paper from Phil Scherer’s lab published in Nature Medicine, the secret ingredient is an unassuming protein that lives in your mitochondria (those crinkly looking cellular powerhouses that run your energy metabolism).

As the story goes, this protein, with the rather memorable name MitoNEET, allows your fat cells to gobble up even more fat, thereby keeping it from ruining the neighbourhood in other organs (like your liver or skeletal muscle).

Evidently, MitoNEET messes up mitochondrial iron transport thereby reducing fat-burn (ß-oxidation), which also leaves you with fewer pro-inflammatory oxygen radicals and more metabolically friendly adiponectin floating around.

So, while an extra dose of MitoNEET may well make you fatter, you can rejoice in the knowledge that this fat is safely tucked away where it belongs, namely in your white fat – point being, it no longer messes with your glucose levels or clogs up your arteries – or at least this is how the story goes if you happen to be a lab mouse.

And woe to those, who lack this fat-enriching protein – they become skinny and unhealthy beings on a down-hill path to certain diabetes, heart disease, and male-pattern baldness (I made up that last one, but it’s probably true).

While anti-obesity activists may wonder about the usefulness of this research, I can certainly see a hot emerging market for MitoNEET analogues in places where beauty is measured in (extra) pounds (like Barbados).

And, if you happen to be one of those healthy obese (EOSS Stage 0) folk, it’s perhaps high time you added MitoNEET to your list of blessings.

Edmonton, Alberta
Kusminski CM, Holland WL, Sun K, Park J, Spurgin SB, Lin Y, Askew GR, Simcox JA, McClain DA, Li C, & Scherer PE (2012). MitoNEET-driven alterations in adipocyte mitochondrial activity reveal a crucial adaptive process that preserves insulin sensitivity in obesity. Nature medicine, 18 (10), 1539-49 PMID: 22961109