Not all fat is equal. What is deposited on internal organs is very bad for health, because it produces mediators of inflammation and increases the probability of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. It also exists for a “good” fat which could otherwise to protect right from metabolic or heart disease, including diabetes 2 and coronary artery disease.
White fat and brown fat
The white fat, in much greater quantities, accumulates energy by storing calories. The brown fat instead a sort of energy powerhouse of the organism: more abundant in newborns and scarce in adults, it is found mainly in neck area around the branches of the aorta and correlated to the body mass index, because as weight increases it tends to decrease, turning into white fat. Brown fat burns a lot of calories to keep us warm when we are cold (and why it is present in large quantities in animals that hibernate), but it also helps regulate metabolism by balancing blood glucose levels and reducing pressure on the pancreas to produce insulin.
The difficulties of intercepting brown fat
Brown fat has always attracted the attention of scientists for its antiobesity potential. The problem is that brown fat is hidden. As we have said, brown fat is found mainly around the neck and shoulders, and therefore it is not easy to recruit people with high levels of brown adipose tissue to assess their health conditions through rigorous testing. The problem appears to have been overcome by the scientists who have decided to recruit volunteers from patients undergoing PET (positron emission tomography) for the diagnosis of a tumor: radiologists when performing this examination always report the presence of brown adipose tissue to distinguish it from a tumor. With the choice of this type of recruitment it was possible to evaluate the health effects of the participants without having to subject healthy individuals who had no reason to undergo that kind of examination to radiation.
The study in Nature
In the new study, published in Nature Medicine it recruited 52,000 people. Only in 10% of the participants was brown fat identified. Why is it so cheap? According to the authors, the reason that these people undergoing PET were probably advised not to engage in physical activity, not to expose themselves to cold and not to overdo caffeine, all activities that increase the production of brown fat.
Greater protection for metabolic or coronary diseases
What emerged? The individuals with higher amounts of brown fat were less likely to suffer from metabolic or heart disease, including diabetes 2 and coronary artery disease. Only 4.6% of people with high levels of brown fat had diabetes 2 compared to 9.5% of those who had little or no amount of it. The benefits on cholesterol were more limited: 18.9% of study participants with brown adipose tissue had high cholesterol levels compared to 22.2% in the other group. Hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease were also less common in those with brown fat. it also emerged that brown fat mitigates the negative effects of obesity: for obese people with brown adipose tissue they would run less risk of developing heart and metabolic diseases.
Activate brown fat
But how can you increase the amount of brown fat? Unfortunately, no one knows yet! Instead, we know more about how to activate it. To date we know that the best way to stimulate brown fat is to expose yourself to cold. After about six weeks of exposure to cold, patients with type 2 diabetes, who usually have low brown fat function, increase energy expenditure and improve insulin sensitivity thanks to the increased activity of this tissue. Healthy subjects with normal brown fat activity have lower blood sugar and blood cholesterol than those who do not have well-functioning brown fat, losing weight improves the functionality of this precious tissue: for all these reasons being able to activate it by finding the “switches” The right cell phones could prove helpful in obese patients and type 2 diabetics. Some food ingredients, such as capsaicin or catechins, seem capable of doing this, and specific drugs are also being studied that could be effective brown fat activators.
January 12, 2021 (change January 12, 2021 | 19:21)
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