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Status: 20.10.2018 12:19:15
A long-term imbalance in energy metabolism causes metabolic disturbances such as obesity and diabetes, which may shorten the life span. We investigate the physiological mechanisms that regulate energy flow, from the energy intake of nutrients to the cellular expenditure of energy. We mainly use animal models to focus on the interaction of organs that are of importance to the overall energy balance, including intestine, liver, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle. Our studies showed that the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced from dietary fiber by intestinal bacterial fermentation have a positive effect on liver lipid metabolism. This improves overall metabolic health, especially in obesity. We are now focusing on the role of metabolic availability of propionate for metabolic health.
With regard to energy balance, we demonstrated the existence of a mitohormesis program in skeletal muscle which is induced by a slight decrease in muscle mitochondrial efficiency. Due to increased cellular stress, defense mechanisms are activated that ultimately ensure cellular survival and have beneficial metabolic effects. This includes the production and release of FGF21 (fibroblast growth factor 21), a stress hormone that improves adipose tissue metabolism in particular.
Within the topic of “healthy aging” we are currently investigating the role of FGF21 and dietary effects on obesity and muscle function in aging.