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Mayo Clinic discovers a key to 'low metabolism' and major factor in obesity

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Wiggle, walk, tap your toes, shop, dance, clean your basement, play the guitar to boost your NEAT or if you're a scientist, your "non-exercise activity thermogenesis." Mayo Clinic researchers report in today's issue of the journal Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/current/ ) that NEAT -- more powerful than formal exercise -- determines who is lean, and who is obese. Obese persons sit, on average, 150 minutes more each day than their naturally lean counterparts. This means obese people burn 350 fewer calories a day than do lean people.

James Levine, M.D., is the Mayo Clinic endocrinologist who led the study. His research team explored the specific links between inactivity, low energy expenditure and obesity in an effort to devise new treatments for obesity, a public health epidemic.

"Our patients have told us for years that they have low metabolism, and as caregivers, we have never quite understood what that means -- until today," says Dr. Levine. "The answer is they have low NEAT, which means they have a biological need to sit more. A person can expend calories either by going to the gym, or through everyday activities. Our study shows that the calories that people burn in their everyday activities -- their NEAT -- are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined."

He adds that the NEAT defect in obese patients doesn't reflect a lack of motivation. "It most likely reflects a brain chemical difference because our study shows that even when obese people lose weight they remain seated the same number of minutes per day," says Dr. Levine. "They don't stand or walk more. And conversely, when lean people artificially gain weight, they don't sit more. So the NEAT appears to be fixed. But as physicians, we can use this data to help our obese patients overcome low NEAT by guiding the treatment of obesity toward a focus on energy as well a
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Contact: Bob Nellis
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
27-Jan-2005


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