I explain in my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, how angiogenesis is the process in which blood vessels are created. Our knowledge of its role in fat tissue accumulation comes in part from the study of cancer. Blood vessels also serve as conduits by which cancer cells travel to other areas of the body, a process called metastasis. Some novel, anti-cancer therapies exploit this dependency: The basic idea is that by destroying the biological context in which cancer cells live, we can indirectly eliminate the cancer itself. And this indirect approach has, in fact, proved a fruitful tactic in treating a number of cancers.
Applying similar conceptual models—laying siege rather than attempting a full-frontal assault—researchers have begun to test whether non-cancer cells can similarly be “de-contextualized.” Using mice treated with anti-angiogenic (blood-vessel blocking) agents, scientists have reported a reduction in vascularization of adipose tissue and the subsequent death of fat cells. So the model seems to be accurate for fat: By indirectly targeting fat cells, through their dependence on blood supply, we can actually “starve” them to death.
It is estimated that each pound of fat requires almost a mile of blood vessels for support. Working backwards from this fact, another study set out to produce a quantitative model for angiogenesis in adipose tissue. The researchers implanted immature fat cells called preadipocytes beneath the skin of mice. Over two to three weeks, these nascent cells developed into fat pads with all the characteristics of normal subcutaneous fat tissue. But the really interesting finding was that blood vessels began to grow in and around the new cells within five days of implantation. This microvasculature appeared to spread out from larger blood vessels in the surrounding area.
Yet another study tested the siege-hypothesis from the other direction—to find out whether blocking angiogenesis could kill off already-existing fat tissue. TNP-470 (an angiogenesis inhibitor) was fed to mice that were placed on a high-calorie diet and to obese mice that lacked leptin (see above). In both cases, the mice either slowed the rate of weight gain or lost weight. The researcher even reported increased insulin sensitivity in the mice. So it appears that blocking angiogenesis in fat tissues not only destroys fat cells and prevents their further formation, but also helps to straighten out the very complex entanglement of hormones that is part and parcel of the diseases of fat—obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and so on.
So how can we take advantage of this strategy, and actively target the blood supplies of our fat cells?
Eat more curry.
One promising approach is the use of curcumin (the nutrient that gives curry its yellow color), a powerful polyphenol, as a fat-blocking nutrient. Mice that were placed on a high-fat diet supplemented with curcumin not only did not gain weight, but also lost fat mass. On a genetic level, curcumin appeared to affect the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor VEGFR-2, which is involved in angiogenesis. The spice also lowered cholesterol levels and other important genetic components involved in the development of fat cells.
Add garlic to your regular diet.
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Garlic consists of a sulfur-containing compound called ajoene that has been shown to induce cell death in fat cells through the activation of hydrogen peroxide. This operates at the genetic level by encouraging many of the typical activities of apoptosis: fragmenting DNA, stimulating mitogen-activated protein kinases (protein kinases that are involved in triggering apoptosis and other regulatory functions), and migrating apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from the mitochondria to the nucleus. Garlic is good for you in so many other ways that adding it to your regular diet is a no-brainer for both fat-related and general health.
Look into the nutrients in guggulsterone.
Scientists have reported that the active compound of a gum resin called guggulsterone, which is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, has anti-obesity effects because it induces cell death and blocks the formation of fat cells. In another study, piperine has also been shown to possess fat-fighting abilities. Piperine, a major component of black pepper, blocks the development of new fat cells. How? The researchers were able to find that piperine operates at the genetic level.
Consume more genistein.
Genistein, which is an estrogen-like compound found in plants such as fava beans and soybeans, has also been shown to induce apoptosis in fat cells.
Get enough vitamin D3.
The apoptotic effects of genistein appear to be magnified by the addition of vitamin D3. In fact, the combination of vitamin D3 and genistein is 200% more productive than using genistein alone. Now that’s an impactful ecogenetic duo!
Exercise to build muscle.
Muscle burns far more calories than fat, even when you are at rest. In addition, muscle as opposed to fat, lowers inflammation. That’s a good thing, since inflammation promotes weight gain and fat cell formation.