Scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that fructose triggers the release of vasopressin, a hormone associated with obesity and diabetes. The team also discovered that water is able to curb the hormone and mitigate metabolic syndrome in mice.
“The clinical significance of this work is that it may encourage studies to evaluate whether simple increases in water intake may effectively mitigate obesity and metabolic syndrome,” said the study’s lead author Miguel A. Lanaspa, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine specializing in renal disease and hypertension.
A paper detailing the study was published in the prestigious journal JCI Insight.
Sugar and Vasopressin – How Obesity and Diabetes Develop
Lanaspa and his fellow colleague, Richard Johnson, MD, also a professor at the CU School of Medicine, wanted to learn more about why vasopressin, which keeps the body’s water levels in check, was exalted in those with obesity and diabetes.
The two researchers fed mice sugar water, in particular fructose, and discovered that it simulated the brain to create vasopressin. The vasopressin, in turn, stored the water as fat, triggering dehydration, which then caused obesity. Feeding the mice with non-sugary water was found to reduce obesity.
As per Lanaspa, this is the first time researchers have demonstrated how vasopressin acts on dietary sugar to trigger and develop obesity and diabetes.
“We found that it does this by working through a particular vasopressin receptor known as V1b,” he said. “This receptor has been known for a while, but no one has really understood its function. We found that mice lacking V1b were completely protected from the effects of sugar. We also show that the administration of water can suppress vasopressin and both prevent and treat obesity.”
Water as an Effective Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome
The two scientists also found that dehydration can encourage the formation of fat in the body.
“This explains why vasopressin is so high in desert mammals as they do not have easy access to water,” Johnson said. “So vasopressin conserves water by storing it as fat.”
The new research matches numerous observations showing that obese people usually have signs of dehydration. It also explains why high salt diets may also trigger and develop diabetes and obesity.
The scientists discovered that water therapy protected efficiently against metabolic syndrome, which is an accumulation of conditions, including high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and high blood sugar that enhance the risk of heart disease, stroke, and also type 2 diabetes.
“The best way to block vasopressin is to drink water,” Lanaspa said. “This is hopeful because it means we may have a cheap, easy way of improving our lives and treating metabolic syndrome.”
Johnson added, summing up the findings: “Sugar drives metabolic syndrome in part by the activation of vasopressin. Vasopressin drives fat production likely as a mechanism for storing metabolic water,” he said. “The potential roles of hydration and salt reduction in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome should be considered.”