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Viagra Can Fight Obesity by Making the Body Produce Less Unhealthy Fats

Update Date: Apr 01, 2013 12:14 PM EDT
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A drug best known for helping people achieve erections may also help people lose weight, according to a new study.

Researchers found that the erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil, or more commonly known as Viagra, helps people lose weight by coaxing their bodies to store more healthy "brown fat" and less "white fat," according to a study published online in The FASEB Journal.

Researchers found that the ED drug stops the breakdown of cyclic GMP, a messenger molecule used by the body to control blood pressure and flow.  Previous research also found that cyclic GMP also plays an important role in determining how much brown and white fat the body will store.

"There is a growing need for novel treatments against obesity," researcher Dr. Alexander Pfeifer of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn, Biomedical Center in Bonn, Germany, said in a statement.  "Finding new positive effects of existing drugs, such as sildenafil, in adipose tissue might help to bridge the period until novel drugs against obesity have been developed."

Pfeifer and his team found that cyclic GMP reduced the secretion of pro-inflammatory hormones, and shifted the "color code" of fat from white to brown.  Researchers found that mice treated with sildenafil shoed "browning" of the white fat after just a few days of treatment.  Researchers believe the "browning of the white fat" is the result of high cyclic GMP levels after they found that isolated fat cells treated directly with cyclic GMP also showed a browning effect.

"Clearly, size matters when it comes to our weight," Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said in a statement. "Numerous studies show that obesity is a risk factor for virtually every human disease, and that obesity is epidemic."

'The finding that Viagra and similar drugs can change our body fat composition has major implications," he said.

"These drugs have well defined risk/benefit profiles and are approved for the treatment of erectile disorders. Further research will determine whether they are useful in the treatment of human girth disorders," he added. 

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