Scientists say Viagra could help to tackle obesity

Erectile dysfunction (ED) medications such as Viagra and Cialis are obviously known for their potency in helping men to achieve and maintain an erection that is satisfactory for sex. It must worth bearing in mind however that Viagra was initially developed at Pfizer’s Kent research facility many years ago as a treatment therapy for hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a symptom of ischaemic heart disease). It was only following clinical trials it was discovered that Viagra had significant effects of erections, and ironically rather ineffective for angina treatment like first anticipated.

With this in mind, scientists over the years have long wondered if sildenafil citrate (Viagra’s active ingredient) could work at treating any other health conditions, and studies are regularly carried out to determine what other uses it may have.

In 2012 TV gardener David Domoney claimed that simply crushing a 50mg tablet up and placing just a fraction of this into the water, could dramatically increase the life of flowers. Whereas others are adamant that Viagra’s positive impact on blood flow may be taken advantage of for athletes, with evidence to suggest that Viagra can boost performance levels in certain sports.

The latest clinical study into the wonders of Viagra has now unearthed the possibility that its active ingredient may be utilised in the obesity epidemic that is particularly problematic here in the UK and the U.S. too.

Researchers from the University of Bonn and the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Germany were the ones who made the discovery, and now their findings may open up possibilities for the 500 million people around the globe who are classified as either overweight or obese. Currently, many such people are turning to weight loss aids such as Alli, Xenical, and XLS-Medical, and the German study suggests that their predicament may have been prevented through sildenafil.

Like so many others do, the researchers used mice for study purposes and administered the ED medication to the mice for seven days and monitored the effect (if any) of their fat cells. Amazingly, it was found that the rodents appeared to be resistant to obesity even when fed a diet high in fat.

Sildenafil works by interfering with a signalling chain of the messenger cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), which allows the inflow of blood and an erection. Alexander Pfeifer, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Bonn, who led the study, commented why Viagra was chosen in the study, saying: “We have been researching the effect of cGMP on fat cells for quite some time now. This is why sildenafil was a potentially interesting candidate for us.”

Ana Kilic, Pfeifer’s colleague, spoke on their findings after the seven day period, saying: “The effects were quite amazing. Sildenafil increased the conversion of white fat cells, which are found in human ‘problem areas’, into beige ones in the animals. Beige fat cells burn the energy from ingested food and convert it to heat.” As these beige cells also ‘melt the fat’, researchers are now optimistic that Viagra could be used as a powerful weapon against obesity.

If white fat cells are continually getting ‘stuffed’ or experience a build-up of lipids, they become enlarged and can synthesize and release hormones which then results in inflammation and a higher risk of  developing chronic diseases.

These inflammatory responses then accelerate cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes are then likely following this. However, Pfeifer continued:  “It seems that sildenafil prevented the fat cells in these mice from getting onto that slippery slope.”

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