A group of researchers from the University of Florida Health reported in a study on how irisin, a hormone, helps convert white fat cells (that store calories) into brown fat cells (that burn energy). Irisin, which rises when the heart and other muscles are exercised, and researchers state this also inhibits the formation of fatty tissue .
The researchers found that irisin works by increasing the activity of genes and protein that are crucial to converting white fat cells into brown fat cells. It also significantly increases the amount of energy used by cells, indicating that it plays a big role in fat burning.
So for anyone looking to lose weight, or simply ramp up their metabolism, find out how white and brown fat can help you.
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White and brown fat, what you should know
Brown fat: The purpose of brown fat is burn calories in order for generating heat. This is why brown fat is usually referred to as the “good” fat because it helps us burn, instead of store, calories.
Brown fat is derived from muscle tissue and is mainly found in hibernating animals as well as newborns. As a person ages, the quantity of brown fat decreases significantly. Adults who, in comparison, have larger amounts of brown fat tend to look younger and thinner and have normal levels of blood sugar.
White fat: white fat has lots of uses. It delivers the largest reserve of energy to the body. It acts as a type of thermal insulator, cushioning our internal organs, and guarding against external interactions within our environment. It is also a vital endocrine organ, producing a type of estrogen and leptin, a hormone that is important in regulating appetite and hunger. Along with this it has receptors for insulin, adrenaline, growth hormone and cortisol (stress hormone).
In women, excess white fat tends to gather around the hips, thighs, buttocks and breasts area until perimenopause, where fat will redistribute to the abdomen. Men, on the most part, will store excess fat in the belly region the majority of their lives.
If there is an excess of white fat inside the abdomen (visceral fat) this is linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that can indicate an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. So when it comes to the body, the location counts! Excessive white fat in and around the body is connected to an increased risk of breast cancer, colon, gall bladder, esophagus and pancreatic cancer. It is also has a strong connection with sleep apnea, as well as other physical issues, like rheumatoid arthritis.
Study details: irisin, a hormone that promotes fat loss
Researchers gathered fat cells provided by 28 patients who underwent breast reduction surgery. After these cell samples were exposed to irisin, they found as much as a five fold increase in cells that contain a protein called UCP1, which is crucial to the “burning” of fat.
“We use human fat tissue cultures to demonstrate that irisin has a positive effect turning white fat into brown fat and increases the ability to burn body fat,” Li-Jun Yang, MD, author of the study.
Similarly, the researchers discovered that irisin suppresses the formation of fat cells. Among the fat tissue samples looked at, irisin lessened the number of mature adipose cells to 20 to 60 percent, when compared to an alternative control group. This data suggests that irisin reduces fat storage in the body, significantly reducing the process that converts undifferentiated stem cells into fat cells while promoting the differentiation of stem cells in bone forming cells (in biology, cellular differentiation is the process by which a cell changes from one cell type to another), according to the researchers.
Other benefits of hormone irisin
The body can produce a small amount of fat that fights irisin, underscoring the importance of exercising regularly.
“Instead of waiting for a miracle drug, you can help yourself by changing your lifestyle. Exercise produces more irisin, which has many beneficial effects including fat reduction, stronger bones and better cardiovascular health, “Yang said.
This study is established on other findings about the beneficial effects of irisin. In 2015, Yang’s group discovered that the hormone helps improve heart function in many ways, including improving calcium levels that are crucial to the heart’s contractions. In June, Yang and a group of scientists in China revealed that irisin reduces arterial plaque buildup in mouse models by preventing the accumulation of inflammatory cells, resulting in the reduction of atherosclerosis. These findings were published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The findings regarding the role of irisin in regulating fat cells sheds more light on how exercise helps people stay slim .
“The irisin can do a lot of things. This is another piece of evidence about the mechanisms that prevent fat accumulation and promote the development of strong bones when you exercise, “Yang said.