Red wine, fruit compound may help block fat cell formation

April 6, 2012

A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that a compound found in red wine, grapes, and other fruits, and similar in structure to resveratrol, may be able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity.

Kee-Hong Kim, Assistant Professor of Food Science at Purdue University, and colleagues reported that the compound piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell’s ability to develop and grow. While similar in structure to resveratrol—the compound found in red wine, grapes, and peanuts that is thought to combat cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases—piceatannol is formed from resveratrol once it is consumed.

“Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions, and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells,” said Kim. “In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis.”

Over a period of 10 days or more, immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, go through several stages to become mature fat cells, or adipocytes. Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin’s ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. Piceatannol essentially blocks the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.

The current findings are based on a cell culture system. Next, Kim plans on using an animal model of obesity to continue the study. His future work would also include determining methods for protecting piceatannol from degrading so that concentrations large enough would be available in the bloodstream to stop adipogenesis or body fat gain.