Scientists have discovered that a protein usually linked to inflammation may be involved in the development of obesity in women. This is a according to a new study published in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders.

The team of researchers, led by Silvia Lorente-Cebrißn and Ingrid Dahlman of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, say a better understanding of the function of this protein, called allograft inflammatory factor 1 (AIF-1), could give researchers an insight into how obesity progresses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 56.6% of women in the US were obese between 2011 and 2012, highlighting the need for new interventions.

The researchers note that previous research has linked the AIF-1 protein to obesity in both mouse and human models. But in this study, they looked to determine the function of the protein in female fat tissue by mapping AIF-1 expression and seeing whether it is released by cells in body fat.

To reach their findings, the investigators analyzed body fat samples from women who were obese and undergoing surgery, alongside women who were not obese.

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Researchers have found that obese women have higher concentrations of AIF-1 - a protein usually linked to inflammation.

The obese women's tolerance to insulin was also analyzed in the study through blood tests.

AIF-1 linked to obesity and insulin resistance

Using genetic testing on this fat tissue, the researchers discovered that AIF-1 protein was present.

AIF-1 is a protein that is normally activated by white blood cells in the body's response to injury. It initiates the healing process through inflammation.

Further investigation found that fat tissue secreted this protein, and it was found in higher concentrations in the women who were obese compared with women who were of a normal, healthy weight.

Additionally, the researchers found that the AIF-1 protein is linked to insulin resistance - a cause of type 2 diabetes.

Explaining their findings, the researchers say:

"We showed that adipose AIF-1 is regulated by changes in body fat mass. AIF-1 gene expression was markedly up-regulated in obese women.

These findings support previously published data from genetic studies in humans and mice, and give further support to the notion that AIF-1 is an obesity-related gene."

The researchers note that further research is warranted in order to find out whether the AIF-1 protein is a marker for obesity, or whether is manipulates the fat cells.

Furthermore, they add that since this study was conducted using women, they would like to confirm whether activity of the AIF-1 protein is expressed the same way in men.

In a study from Harvard School of Public Health recently reported by Medical News Today, researchers linked symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to increased risk of obesity in women.