"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 Dr. Miguel Lanaspa, a researcher in the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado Denver.
Dr. Lanaspa and his colleagues wanted to understand why vasopressin, which maintains the body's water levels, was elevated in those with obesity and diabetes.
They fed mice sugar water, specifically fructose, and found that it stimulated the brain to make vasopressin.
The vasopressin in turn stored the water as fat causing dehydration which triggered obesity.
Treating the rodents with non-sugary water reduced the obesity.
"We found that it does this by working through a particular vasopressin receptor known as V1b," Dr. Lanaspa 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."
The scientists also discovered that dehydration can stimulate the formation of fat.
"This explains why vasopressin is so high in desert mammals as they do not have easy access to water. So vasopressin conserves water by storing it as fat," said Dr. Richard Johnson, also from the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado Denver.
The new data fit with observations showing that obese people often have signs of dehydration, and explain why high salt diets may also cause obesity and diabetes.
The team found that water therapy in mice effectively protected against metabolic syndrome.
"The best way to block vasopressin is to drink water," Dr. Lanaspa said.
"This is hopeful because it means we may have a cheap, easy way of improving our lives and treating metabolic syndrome."
"Sugar drives metabolic syndrome in part by the activation of vasopressin. Vasopressin drives fat production likely as a mechanism for storing metabolic water."
"The potential roles of hydration and salt reduction in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome should be considered."
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