The body’s ability to harness heat production by converting white fat cells which store calories into beige (good) fat cells that burn energy, can help fight obesity, a new study reveals.
The study suggests natural mechanism in the body, which converts white fat cells into brownish fat cells — known as ‘brite’ or ‘beige’ fat cells — by using heat production and increasing the sympathetic nervous system’s (SNS) supply of blood vessels to white fat tissue, could be a new and promising approach to fighting obesity.
“Perhaps the most important features of white adipose tissue for the conversion of white fat cells to brite/beige fat cells is the density of the SNS nerves being supplied to white adipose tissue, and the fat cell population surrounding this nerve supply having a genetic ability to brown,” said Vitaly Ryu from Center for Obesity Reversal at Georgia State.
Our body has two types of fat tissue — white and brown. White adipose tissue, or white fat, stores energy or calories and produces hormones that are secreted into the bloodstream.
Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is a dark-colored fat tissue with many blood vessels that burns energy and produces heat.
There is a connection of white fat tissue with other tissues, including the heart and blood vessels that could lead to coronary and hypertension diseases, understanding how it occurs could be beneficial.
Scientists are hopeful that increasing energy expenditure with brown or brite/beige fat cells could be an effective way to fight obesity.
It was originally thought that, in humans, only babies had brown fat, but researchers found small amounts of brown fat in adults in 2009.
The researchers investigated how the SNS, a part of the nervous system helps prepare the body to react to situations of stress or emergency, ‘browns’ white fat tissue cells, transforming them into ‘brite’ or ‘beige’ fat cells and suggesting a potential mechanism for increasing heat production in the body.
“SNS drive increases with cold exposure and food deprivation, so that’s when a breakdown of fats and cell ‘browning’ occurs,” Ryu added.
The researchers found the clearest neuroanatomical evidence of the SNS controlling the browning of white fat in mice after cold exposure for 10 days versus warm acclimated control mice.
Studies infer that SNS innervation and stimulation of the white adipose tissue 3 –adrenoreceptor is important in white adipose tissue browning.
By altering the temperature of their living and working environment or adding and removing clothes, this most likely limits the number of naturally occurring brite/beige cells in humans and any significant role of these cells in the everyday production of heat, the researchers concluded.
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