Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers are blood pressure drugs that block key steps in a system that helps control blood pressure and reduce fluid buildup in the body. This pathway is known as the renin-angiotensin system. Previous studies have suggested that the renin-angiotensin system plays a role in body fat and obesity.
Michael Mathai and colleagues in Australia examined mice that were missing a gene that encodes for angiotensin-converting enzyme, a key protein for the renin-angiotensin system. They discovered that those without the gene weighed 20% less.
The lightweight mice also had about 50% less body fat than their heavyweight counterparts, particularly in the belly area. However, both groups of mice seemed to eat and exercise the same amount, leading researchers to theorize that the slimmer mice might have a faster metabolism.
The researchers found that the ACE-deficient mice not only broke down fats faster in the liver, they processed blood sugars more quickly than the other mice, making them less likely to develop diabetes.
The study results demonstrate that an ACE deficiency leads to reduction in body fat accumulation in mice and suggests that drugs that affect the renin-angiotensin system, such as ACE inhibitors, might spark weight loss, especially in the midsection. Having a so-called spare tire around your belly is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The scientists published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.