Science Says Your Bones Might Hold The Key To Losing Stubborn Weight

Photo: Sonja Lekovic

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If a new study conducted on rodents is any indication, our inability to shed unwanted pounds might have less to do with our caloric intake and more to do with the health of our bones.

For the study, lead researcher John-Olov Jansson, a neuroscientist at the University of Gothenburg, conducted three different experiments on mice and rats. His goal was to understand why and how our bodies consistently try to stay at a specific weight, so for the first experiment he implanted a capsule in the abdomen of rodents that was equivalent to about 15 percent of their body mass. Within just two days, these rodents were eating less, seemingly trying to lose the weight their bodies assumed they had put on. Once these capsules were removed, the rodents started eating normally again.

Jansson and his team then repeated the exact same procedure, but this time on rodents that had been bred with little leptin, which is the hormone that produces fat cells in our bodies. Again, these rodents worked to stabilize their weight, eating less to compensate for the capsule that had been implanted in their abdomens.

But the third group yielded more interesting results. When the scientists implanted the capsule in mice that had been bred to have low levels of bone cells called osteocytes, which are the cells that detect when weight is bearing on the skeleton, they didn't work to drop the extra weight. Instead, they continued eating the same amount of food as they had previously.

What this research suggests is that healthy bones can detect changes in our body mass and alter our diets accordingly. This could also explain why our sedentary lifestyles are doing few favors for the obesity epidemic: When we sit, our body weight is supported by a seat instead of our bones, so our skeletons have no idea how much we actually weigh.

Of course, humans are not rodents, and more research needs to be conducted on this topic before researchers can reach definitive conclusions. But if you're struggling to reach a healthy weight despite your best efforts, sitting less and moving more is a great place to start.

Want to learn more about how to reach a healthy weight this year? Here's what you need to know about the relationship between sleep, exercise, and weight gain.

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