Photograph of an obese mouse next to an average sized mouse. (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
With endless access to food and inactive life styles, many laboratory mice are overweight. New research shows that giving mice more to think about – as opposed to more exercise – will cause them to burn calories. Living on Earth’s Jack Rodolico reports.
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RODOLICO: Obesity isn't just a problem for people. Many laboratory mice are overweight too. Now, scientists have shown giving mice more to think about, can make them skinnier. Researchers at the University of Ohio put overweight mice in what they called an enriched environment - a large enclosure where they mingled with other mice. Toys and mazes were changed regularly, and the rodents were given plenty to eat.
In four weeks, the mice lost up to 70 percent of their belly fat. These social mice were compared with solitary mice that had access to a running wheel. The lonely mice exercised more, but the social mice still lost more fat. The scientists conclude it was the social and mental stimulation that helped them burn calories.
In a previous study, the research team found that living in a dynamic social setting slowed the growth of cancer in mice. Exercise, diet and medication are all important, but social interaction, and perhaps, even how we feel about ourselves, could be just as important. So, if you’re watching your waistline, be sure to make time for just sitting around - with friends. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I'm Jack Rodolico.
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