Friday, December 16, 2016

Exercise Can Turn White Fat into Brown Fat

The common weight loss approaches in use today are lifestyle change, diet, exercise, antiobesity drugs, and weight loss surgery. It has been suggested that exercise may help a person lose weight by converting white fat into brown fat, the so called “good fat.” Indeed, some studies are showing just how exercise may make this white-fat-to-brown-fat conversion.

Brown fat is important because brown fat has been shown to burn energy rather than store it the way white fat does, making brown fat more desirable than white fat. Two studies have indicated that exercise produces a hormone, called irisin, which converts white fat into brown fat.

In a 2012 article, "Bruce Spiegelman, professor of cell biology and medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and his colleagues [reported] that, in mice at least, exercise can make [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."

In a more recent study, published in 2016, investigators at the University of Florida, turned human white fat into brown fat. Using human white fat tissue "from women who had undergone breast reduction surgery," the investigators soaked the white fat tissue in human irisin for four days. The white fat that was moderately or highly exposed to irisin displayed the characteristics of brown fat. The soaked fat also burned more energy than it did before the exposure to irisin.

With more research, we may one day be able to tailor exercise to be more effective in the white-to-brown-fat conversion process. This would be just one more tool in our fight to lose unhealthy fat and maintain a healthy body weight.


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