Could Erectile Dysfunction treatment Viagra also help for slimming?

scalesAt Medical Specialists® Pharmacy we know that losing weight can sometimes be a hard task. We know this due to the thousands of patients that come to us for weight loss treatments such as Xenical or Alli, after previously struggling to shed the pounds.

However, according to researchers in China, erectile dysfunction drug Viagra may actually be a radical method of losing weight.

Laboratory and animal studies have discovered that ‘the little blue pill’ – as Viagra is often labelled – produces alterations in body fat, causing calories to be burned for energy as opposed to being stored.

As animals have only been assessed, a trial has now begun to see if the same premise holds true for humans. A group of men will be administered either a Viagra tablet or an ineffective placebo, to be taken three times daily for a duration of seven days, with any possible fluctuations in body-fat analysed.

Public Health England say that two-thirds of British adults and a quarter of children between the ages of two and ten can be classified as overweight or obese. The risks from being obese are well-known and include serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and pressure placed onto the joints, leading to osteoarthritis.

Fat accumulates within the body when we consume more calories than we burn, however not all fats are generated in the same way. Most of the typical adult’s bodily fatty tissue is white fat, linked to the storage of excess calories. The body also has a smaller amount of brown fat, which actually work to burn calories to generate heat, so the body is kept warm.

Brown fat is most prominent in new-borns, as they need to be kept warm but are less capable of regulating body temperature. Unfortunately, we lose most of this brown fat as we get older, except for small amounts (particularly around the neck and shoulders) which are used to keep a constant core body temperature.

As we grow into adults, we lose most of our brown fat. But small amounts – teaspoonfuls – remain, particularly around the neck and shoulders, where it is needed to help maintain a constant core body temperature.

Whilst white fat can comprise of around 20 to 25% of a person’s bodyweight, brown fat only takes up between 3 and 7.5% of bodyweight, however, some scientists are looking at methods of boosting the prowess of brown fat – or even ways of producing more of it.

They discovered that exposure to cold temperatures can help to induce a process called ‘browning’ – the conversion of the unhealthy white fat into energy-burning, heat-generating brown fat, and research would suggest erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra can actually kick-start browning.

Viagra (generic name sildenafil) works in erectile dysfunction patients by helping to relax the smooth muscles of the penis and boosting blood flow. However, trials have shown that mice administered the drug over lengthy periods of time were less prone to obesity, despite having a high-fat diet.

With that in mind, researchers based at the University of Bonn in Germany decided to give mice Viagra for a week to see any potential effects on their fat cells.

Remarkably, the researchers discovered that Viagra manage to change white fat cells into ‘beige’ fat – which, similar to brown fat, burns the energy from food and converts it to heat. Writing in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the researchers say that Viagra basically is able to ‘melt’ away the unhealthy fat, but precisely how it does that is unclear at this moment in time, but it is generally thought that sildenafil increases levels of compound cGMP.  This compound passes signals between cells and is thought to be linked to fat browning and speeding up metabolism.

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