Not all fat is made equal and researchers have just come up with a way to change the “bad” fat that builds up and make our clothes tighter in the “good” type of fat that burns calories to keep us warm. The new animal study causes a stir, because it can provide an effective and above all an easy solution for stubborn weight gain.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have found a way to turn obesity, which causes white fat, into energy-hungry “beige” fat in laboratory rats. According to the study, now published online in Cell Reports, the team discovered that blocking the activity of a specific protein called PexRaP in white fat caused the cells to turn into healthier beige fat. When the researchers then started making mice that had been genetically modified to suppress this protein, they noticed that the genetically modified mice were slimmer than their brothers and sisters, despite the fact that they consumed the same amount of food. The results suggest that this finding could one day be converted into a treatment for human obesity.
“Our goal is to find a way to treat or prevent obesity,” said the first author Irfan J. Lodhi in a statement. “Our research suggests that by targeting a protein in white fat, we can convert bad fat into a type of fat that combats obesity.”
When most of us think of body fat, we imagine white fat. This is very abundant, especially in the abdomen and thighs, and works to store energy and produce certain hormones. Too much white fat can cause obesity and lead to obesity.
Brown fat, on the other hand, is more present in lean people and less abundant in people who are overweight and obese. Brown found is found in larger amounts around the neck and shoulders, and is more common in children than in adults. This type of fat helps keep you warm and can actually burn white fat to achieve this.
Beige fat is in between, and a relatively new concept that was only unveiled in 2015. According to the researchers, it works in the same way as brown fat, and therefore their findings can lead to more effective weight loss treatment.
This is not the first time researchers have noticed that converting white fat cells into beige fat could be an effective way to combat obesity: a 2015 study in the International Journal of Obesity Supplements suggested the same.
Although the idea of anti-obesity treatment sounds attractive, we are not quite there yet. The team noted that they had to find a way to achieve the same results in humans without causing them to overheat or develop a dangerous fever, because beige fat warms up.