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If the low-fat fad was bad for waistlines, could this be why?

October 10, 2008 |  3:54 pm

Why is it that, during the height of the low-fat fad, people in the U.S. got fatter ... and fatter ... and fatter? These two things may be utterly unrelated, of course.

But if there is a link, maybe here's one reason why. Scientists have found that oleic acid, a type of fat, keeps rats satisfied for longer and makes them pause longer between meals. Reporting in the journal Cell Metabolism, the UC Irvine team write that oleic acid converts to a hormone, oleoylethanolamide, when it reaches the rat's gut. And that hormone -- OEO for short -- damps down rodent hunger.

Because the biology controlling appetite in rodents and people is physiologically very similar, the researchers -- led by UC Irvine's Daniele Piomelli -- suggest this finding may offer clues to design of a new type of anti-obesity drug. 

Piomelli's group notes that saturated fats are not rich sources of oleic acid -- but it's the main mononunsaturated fat in olive oil.

--Rosie Mestel