Basic understanding of the body's energy balance – University of Copenhagen

Research into a basic understanding of the body's energy balance

When we take in more energy than the body consumes, we risk becoming overweight and contracting diabetes. At the University of Copenhagen, a strong team of international researchers is working to understand all aspects of the body's energy balance. They are studying the physiological and metabolic mechanisms that are triggered when humans eat. This includes attempting to understand the fats and amino acids that we eat and the body's response to food in the form of secretion of hormones and understanding of cell receptors. The researchers are also studying how the body reacts when we use energy, e.g. in the form of exercise. The University of Copenhagen's research into metabolism stretches all the way back to August Krogh who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in 1920 and two years later became the first person to produce insulin in Denmark. Some of the important knowledge gained in recent years about the body's energy balance is listed below. 

Discovery of the GLP-1 hormone

The discovery of the GLP-1 hormone represented a breakthrough in the understanding of the physiological mechanisms triggered when human beings eat. GLP-1 has a significant impact on the secretion of insulin from the pancreas, how quickly food passes through the gastrointestinal tract and our appetite. The discovery of the hormone has revolutionised the treatment of diabetes and led to the development of one of the most widespread diabetes agents.

Identification of genes that increase the risk of obesity

The circadian rhythm, food intake and exercise of mice are far easier to control completely than those of human beings, and are therefore a good complement to the study of humans. By studying the interaction between genetic factors and lifestyle such as diet and exercise in mice, researchers have identified a gene that the body needs if it is to choose to burn fat. People who lack this gene become fat if they have a high-fat diet. The next step is therefore to develop something that can activate this gene, which is expected to increase the body's ability to burn fat.

MotionsløbereMyokines and their health benefits combined with physical activity

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for the development of a range of diseases. Research has identified a number of hormone-like substances that are released from our muscles when we exercise. These substances are called myokines, and there are several hundred of them. Myokines are active in mediating the beneficial effects of physical activity. Some myokines mediate communication between the muscle and other organs, while other myokines affect the muscle's metabolism and growth. Myokines can also increase insulin sensitivity, affect the make up of the body and help prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Udsnit af de menneskelige tarmeStudying and mapping human intestinal bacteria

Studies of intestinal bacteria in human beings can be used to characterise a large number of diseases. New research shows that the composition of intestinal flora can play an important role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Grisen ligner mennesket,både anatomisk, fysiologisk og genetisk og er derfor en god model.Pig genes as a biomedical model for obesity

In collaboration with an international research team, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have for the first time mapped the entire pig genome. The knowledge has been applied to a porcine model, in which studies were conducted of 500 pigs who have inherited genes from a breed with a different tendency to obesity. The model gives us insight into the genes that affect obesity and obesity-related diseases, and which make humans vulnerable to a lifestyle with a high range of tasty food and very modest requirements for physical activity.