Eat Your Sildenafil
Butterworth, Trevor, Newsweek
Byline: Trevor Butterworth
Is Viagra the new weight-loss pill?
The history of medicine is full of discoveries that scientists then play with, willy nilly, to see if they might have an application elsewhere. Such is the case with sildenafil, which most of us know (and some of us have come to love) as Viagra. Mice loaded up on Viagra somehow managed to resist putting on weight when given a high-fat diet, and this was not due, as one might intuit, to an increased interest in making baby mice; they just didn't get fat. This was exciting. But the question was why?
Now, a new study by German researchers at the University of Bonn, supported by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, and the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, has elucidated the mechanism, which centers on the work of a messenger molecule long known to regulate blood vessels, and hence blood pressure. It turns out the same molecule also stimulates fat cells, promoting the growth of brown and what are called "brown in white (brite)" fat cells, which burn off fat as energy.
"The idea of increasing energy consumption by stimulating brown/brite fat cells is a fascinating concept that might--together with classical anti-obesity approaches--help tackle the obesity pandemic," says Alexander Pfeifer, director of the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn, and a co-author of the study. He and the other researchers noticed that sildenafil also decreased the inflammatory signals that play a role in the development of diabetes and atherosclerosis. …