Ana Andres-Hernando, DVM, P.h.D
Dates of funding: 2018-2019
Research Associate, Department of Renal Diseases and Hypertension
Role of fructose in early life predisposition to childhood obesity
Rates of obesity and its co-morbidities are increasing alarmingly throughout the world due to a complex mix of dietary, environmental, and behavioral factors. Of great concern, 15% of 2-5 year-old children in the U.S. are now obese and more than one third (36,5%) of US adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. Significantly, emerging evidence indicates that the risk factors associated with obesity and other aspects of metabolic syndrome (MetS) may exert their influence prenatally. Hyper-caloric intake of fat and nutritive sweeteners, such as high-fructose corn syrup, plays perhaps the most crucial detrimental role in this epidemic. However, avoidance of dietary sugar has become increasingly challenging as it is frequently added to all types of food. Our group has focused on the fructose component of sugar in the pathogenesis of metabolic disease and we are actively involved in identifying modifiable biological factors contributing to sugar-induced MetS. Among these potential targets, we have identified the enzyme fructokinase, which catalyzes the first step in conversion of fructose into fat and calories, as a potential candidate to slow the progression of MetS induced by sugar. If the hypothesis tested in this proposal is correct, our findings will lead to new therapeutic approaches to combat the current epidemics of metabolic syndrome and obesity in kids. More specifically, our work will lead to the potential discovery and use of fructokinase inhibitors and fructokinase knockout derived probiotics to be used during pregnancy and lactation to significantly reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome during childhood.