Monday, September 17, 2012

Genes Associated with Brown Fat May Play Role in Obesity and Type ll Diabetes

Lifestyle change, diet, exercise, obesity drugs, and bariatric surgery comprise the leading approaches to weight loss. And some research has suggested that increasing a person's brown fat could eventually be a way to fight obesity. However, other research indicates that brown fat could also be associated with genes that actually raise the risk of obesity and type ll diabetes.

Brown fat could be used to fight obesity because, as some  researchers believe, brown fat burns energy rather than store it the way white fat does.  Therefore, brown fat is viewed as more desirable than white fat. Also, brown fat apparently plays a role in regulating the way we burn energy. And some investigators speculate that there are genes embedded in brown fat that participate in this regulation.

These genes, it is suggested, were developed by man's body as a  protective mechanism, during human evolution, as man moved out of Africa. The genes evolved to regulate man's energy expense to protect the body in cold weather and when food was scarce. To protect the body, some of these genes cause fat to be deposited in certain parts of the body, and some of these genes called "thrifty genes" slow the body's metabolism to cause the body to conserve energy.

But since food is more plentiful today than it was as man moved out of Africa, man no longer needs this protection. So the protective mechanism may somehow be contributing to our current obesity and to type ll diabetes epidemics. 

Of course, more research is needed to determine if there, indeed, are genes in brown fat that play a role in how our bodies expend energy. And as we understand brown fat better, we may be able to confirm that brown fat does contain energy regulating genes. With that knowledge, drugs may be developed to target these genes in a way to reduce obesity and lower the rates of type ll diabetes.

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