An oil against obesity

By affecting microorganisms in our bellies, an oil made from wild almond tree seeds could help our bodies fight obesity and diabetes, says Daniel Oerther, the John and Susan Mathes Chair of Environmental Engineering.

Adding sterculic oil to the diets of obese laboratory mice increased their sensitivity to insulin and improved their glucose tolerance. The oil suppresses the bodily enzyme stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1, which is associated with insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to diabetes and obesity.

Ph.D. candidate Shreya Ghosh studied 28 male mice — 14 of them obese and 14 normal. She separated the mice into four groups and for nine weeks fed a standard diet to one group of obese mice and one group of non-obese mice. Over the same period, she added 0.5 percent of sterculic oil to the diets of one group of obese mice and one group of non-obese mice. Ghosh recorded the weights, food consumption and glucose levels of the mice during the nine-week period.

A DNA analysis of the gut microbiota, conducted at King Abdullah Institute of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, confirmed a correlation between the diet, improved glucose tolerance and groups of microbes. Even though the mice fed a diet with sterculic oil did not experience weight loss, both Ghosh and Oerther believe their findings could lead to new insights into controlling diabetes and weight gain.

Oerther and Ghosh presented their research last June at the 2012 American Society for Microbiology general meeting in San Francisco.

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