Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brown Fat Can Be Made from White Fat

Among the common weight loss approaches are lifestyle change, including diet and exercise, weight loss surgery and obesity drugs. Some of these weight loss approaches may one day be instrumental in converting ordinary white fat into brown fat, the so called “good fat.”

Brown fat has been found to burn energy rather than store it the way white fat does.  So brown fat is more desirable than white fat. Two studies point to ways that the human body may convert ordinary fat into brown fat. One conversion method is through exercise and another involves the hormone, PRDM16.

“In a recent article, Bruce Spiegelman, professor of cell biology and medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and his colleagues report that, in mice at least, exercise can make it [brown fat] appear, by turning ordinary white fat brown. When mice exercise, their muscle cells release a newly discovered hormone that the researchers named irisin. Irisin, in turn, converts white fat cells into brown ones. Those brown fat cells burn extra calories.” Further, Dr. Spiegelman  believes that the human body may convert white fat into brown fat in a similar fashion.

And in a study done by a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)  group, it was found that in mice, TZDs (thiazolidinediones, such as Actos and Avandia) interacted with the hormone, PRDM16, to cause white fat to be converted into brown fat. TZDs are used to treat Type ll diabetes. However, TZDs have serious side effects, including a risk of heart failure. So while TZDs may not be the most appropriate drug candidate for converting white fat into brown fat, the finding that TZDs can promote the fat conversion could lead to drugs that safely promote the conversion.

With more research, we may one day know how exercise, and what exercise, converts ordinary white fat into brown fat in humans. And some day, we may have a drug that can initiate the white fat to brown fat conversion. Of course, these results would give weight loss services providers more tools in the fight against overweight and obesity. 

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