UMass Amherst Receives $260,000 For Anti-obesity Research

AMHERST — UMass Amherst scientists have received $260,000 from the American Heart Assoc. to investigate a compound with promising anti-obesity properties. The research could eventually lead to new drug treatments for preventing unhealthy weight gain and reduce the incidence of obesity-related illnesses, such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Obessity is a growing problem in the U.S. that afflicts more than 60 million adults and an increasing number of children and teens. In the search for preventive treatments, scientists have zeroed in on conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring compound found in dairy products and meat. Studies with mice showed that CLA blocked fat uptake by cells and increased the rodents’ overall energy expenditure.

But when tested in humans, CLA didn’t pack the anti-obesity punch that researchers had anticipated.

Now, UMass Amherst food scientist Yeonhwa Park and her colleague Deborah Deborah Good, veterinary and animal sciences, will explore the fat-fighting abilities of a chemical cousin of CLA. The scientists will investigate conjugated nonadecadienoic acid (CAN), which is similar to CLA, but may be more effective in the low doses required for human use.

“Preliminary results suggest that CAN is a good candidate,” says Park, “but we need to better understand how it acts to prevent body-fat accumulation.”