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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 January 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 2015 7 NEWS Greek Australian scientist may hold obesity key Tony Tiganis makes inroads into body fat storage JOHN PYRROS Monash University scientist Tony Tiganis may yet hold the key in the fight against obesity. Tiganis and his team have been researching the connection between two naturally occurring hormones, which he says has given scientists new insights into how the brain regulates body fat. With obesity rates rising, accelerating obesity related illnesses, the push for a cure is becoming increasingly demanding. In Australia alone, approximately two-thirds of the population is overweight, and roughly one-third is obese, costing the economy in excess of $56 billion annually. The process conjured by Tiganis relates to leptin - a hormone produced by fat acting to suppress hunger - and insulin - produced by the pancreas in response to the levels of glucose in the blood - after a meal. Both of these hormones convey to the brain the amount of energy stored in the body and how much more is likely to be stored as a result of consumption. Once the energy levels are received by the brain the body converts white fat (storage) into brown fat (energy burn). Tiganis has seen effective results in studies on mice to suggest that this process may actually be the cause of weight gain and obesity. "We believe that one potential reason for why we may get fat is that this mechanism of energy balance is altered because the brain does not respond to insulin and lepton and does not effectively promote the conversion of white fat to brown fat. "In mice we've been able to show that if we instruct the brain to convert white fat to brown fat, mice don't put on weight when they are fed a high fat diet and are metabolically healthy," Tiganis told Neos Kosmos. Whilst conclusive evidence is still years away, early signs of a 'cure' are positive. "We've generated genetically engineered mice that lack these two molecules, and we found (by injecting insulin and leptin into the brains of the mice) the responses were enhanced and the mice had high levels of brown fat and were resistant to diet induced obesity. So we fed them a high fat diet and they simply didn't put on weight - and this cannot be explained by changes in their activity. They didn't move around more, they didn't eat less, this can be explained solely by the increase in brown fat, the conversion of white fat into brown fat and the increase in anti-expenditure." He said factors behind the hormone (and resultant energy) imbalance are multifactorial, but hopes to eventually harness the ability to promote the conversion of white fat to brown fat in the human brain. One of the stumbling blocks, he said, is the inability to test the human brain according to the same process trialled in mice. "No-one's really prepared to give up their brain. So we need to do a lot more work in mice, then we start looking at humans and come up with ways to manipulate this pathway. There's nothing at this stage to be gained from our studies in terms of helping out individuals," he said. With effective obesity drugs still years away, for now Tiganis recommends regular exercise, a good healthy diet and limited carbohydrate intake as the keys to combating fat levels. Tsipras, the Greek ‘Harry Potter’! CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Tsipras has pledged to reverse the austerity measures imposed on Greece, and many fear he will refuse to repay the €240 billion that Greece owes creditors. Tsipras has said: "Austerity is not part of the European treaties; democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty are." Writing in the Financial Times on Wednesday, he said: "A SYRIZA government will respect Greece's obligation, as a eurozone member, to maintain a balanced budget, and will commit to quantitative targets." Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned against Greece trying to haggle down the debt this week in an interview with the Irish Times: "Collective endeavours are welcome," she said, "but at the same time a debt is a debt and it is a contract." His party is currently ahead in the polls. SYRIZA commands 35 per cent of the projected votes, well ahead of right-wing New Democracy (currently part of the governing coalition) who have 31 per cent. By promising to raise the minimum wage, give food and electricity and create 300,000 new jobs, Tsipras has become incredibly popular with strug- gling Greeks. Around a quarter of Greek people are unemployed, and over 200,000 Greeks have left the country since the financial crisis, which started in 2010. Since jobs were cut, prostitution had soared by 150 per cent by 2013, with some women forced to sell their bodies for just €5. There's no doubt that Tspiras' anti-austerity promises have captured the public's heart. ACTU extends hand to Greek workers Australian unions push for renegotiation of debt and austerity in Greece Australian unions have pledged their support behind Greece's labour and workforce, ahead of the country's January 25 general election. In a press release, ACTU president Ged Kearney said a number of unions have signed a solidarity statement urging European and international bodies to renegotiate and relax some of the measures put in place to fend off Greece's debt. "Australian Unions are urging the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission (the troika) to negotiate in good faith with the new government that will be formed to cancel debt, allow it to restore workers' right to collective bargaining, minimum wage pensions and support its efforts to rebuild the Greek economy on a fair and sustainable pathway," Kearney said. The move complements the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign, with co-ordinator Adam Rorris pushing the Australian government to use its influence on the global stage to conjure immediate action. Rorris told Neos Kosmos that change is required, and imminent, with crippling debt and austerity measures failing the country, despite slight SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. economic growth at the end of last year. "Our objective is to let people in Australia know (and more broadly if they're interested) of the situation in Greece. We have a social media presence and collect any information that brings to light the real situation in Greece today (and) that has unfolded since the global financial crisis. "We distribute information and meet with people who we feel would benefit from it which includes parliamentarians, students and people from the trade union movement, which has traditionally showed a concern for these issues." Rorris admits the Solidarity Movement's political and support for a debt 'haircut' are more in line with Greece's radical-leftist SYRIZA party, which is currently leading the polls one day out from the election, but denies any strict formal affiliation between the two bodies. "It became very clear that there was significant opposition developing in Greece to the politics of the government in relation to the debt and the economics and social policy. When it became obvious that there was a viable alternative, that of course made a solidarity campaign also more attractive and viable." This weekend's election is touted by commentators as one of Greece's most important in modern history, with Greeks faced with the option of radical change courtesy of pledges made by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, or continue down its current path, which saw the economy grow slightly at the end of 2014. However, despite the minimal growth, Rorris believes the status quo cannot be sustained. "Statisticians and economists will often tell you of the well-known effect known as the 'dead cat bounce'. If you throw a cat off a cliff, it's a sharp fall, but you get a PHOTO: AP PHOTO/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS. bit of a bump at the end because the cat's hit the ground. Something like that is happening in the case of Greece." "When you get a levelling off of that decline that doesn't signal a great achievement, the descent has now plateaued and you've seen some minimal growth at a very low base, which is hardly a recovery. There's no prospects of sustained recovery, because you cannot expect an economy to grow when you've savaged the very incomes that will give people purchasing power." Accordingly, the Solidarity Movement has been widely supported by Greek Australians who are "horrified" with Greece's economic and social collapse. Rorris says a "haircut" is required and inevitable, considering that the large sum of money lent to the country cannot be sustainably paid back, and says talks of a pending 'Grexit' from the eurozone is simply "scaremongering".
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