Steroid use can turn ‘good’ fat into ‘bad’

Sydney, April 4 (IANS) Steroids that are generally given to treat inflammatory diseases can slow down calorie burning in brown or “good” fat, finds a study.

The findings showed that brown fat is an important player in causing obesity by steroids, which are prone to side effects like weight gain and obesity.

Brown fat, also known as the good fat, is found in both humans and animals. It burns energy by acting like a heat generator to keep the body warm, contributing greatly to total daily energy expenditure in regulating body weight.

Compared with placebo treatment, prednisolone — a steroid used in the treatment of various inflammatory and autoimmune conditions — was found to reduce the production of heat in brown fat and increase the production of energy derived from a meal.

The research indicated that prednisolone could be enhancing conversion of energy from a meal into stored “bad” fat while not allowing brown fat to do its work of turning energy into heat.

“Our findings pave the way for developing treatments that stimulate the function and growth of brown fat to prevent not only steroid-induced obesity, but also maybe obesity in general,” said one of the researchers Ken Ho, professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

The team analysed 13 healthy young adults — six men and seven women — with an average age of 28 years.

The researchers allocated the participants, in random order, to one week of treatment with prednisolone (15 mg per day) and one week of placebo, a dummy drug, separated by a two-week treatment-free period.

At the end of each treatment, participants moved to an air-conditioned room cooled to 19 degree Celsius.

There they underwent nuclear medicine scanning with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) of their head and chest as well as measurement of the skin temperature at the base of the neck, where brown fat is located, using a sensitive infrared thermal camera.

The findings were presented at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston, US.

Post-menopausal hormone therapy cuts heart disease

New York, April 4 (IANS) A team of US researchers has found that hormone therapy, when taken within six years of menopause, may slow the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis — the primary underlying pathway that leads to heart disease and stroke.

The findings suggest that after a median of five years of hormone therapy, women in the early post-menopausal group who were taking estradiol, showed significantly less rate of blocked arteries — a condition that can lead to heart disease and stroke, when measured against those taking the placebo.

“Studies on hormone therapy and vascular degeneration, provides strong evidence that the cardiovascular benefits of hormone therapy are dependent on timing of initiation,” said Howard N. Hodis from Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in the US.

The researchers examined the hypothesis that the cardiovascular effects of post-menopausal hormone therapy vary with the timing of hormone therapy initiation.

The team conducted a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE) in over 600 post-menopausal women with no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

They were stratified into two groups: early post-menopause — women who were within six years of menopause and late post-menopause — women who were 10 years or more beyond menopause.

Women in each group were randomly assigned to receive either oral estradiol — with progesterone vaginal gel for those with a uterus or a placebo — which included a placebo vaginal gel for those with a uterus.

“ELITE provides proof of concept and first direct evidence from human investigation that timing of hormone therapy is imperative for success in the prevention of atherosclerosis progressio,” Hodis added.

“The stratification of participants into early and late post-menopause was a unique feature of ELITE. We believe that applying this design to further examination of heart disease prevention could ultimately prove immensely fruitful for women’s health,” Hodis noted.

The concept of timing of initiation of an intervention is likely applicable to most preventive approaches to cardiovascular disease in women, the authors stated.

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