While most people are trying to lose fat, they may not realize the brain may be an important focus. The scientific journal “Cell” just published an animal study that describes the brain’s role in regulating the conversion (browning/”fat frying”) of inactive white storing fat (WAT) to metabolically active brown fat (BAT).
This research adds to others like my blog on the brain and gut connection, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/listen-to-your-gut/) associating the brain’s role with physical health.
It seems that neurons (in the hypothalamus) work to burn calories and then actually changing inactive WAT fat to more active BAT burning fat. The whole process includes neurons, hormones and enzymes.
There are 3 types of body fat that are distinguished by color. White fat (WAT) is stored and not active, it comprises 90% of the body’s fat. Brown fat (BAT, but should be termed BRAT LOL) actually works to burn calories, maintain blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140723123944.htm. BAT can burn as much as 5 times more fat than beige fat. Beige fat is a mixture of WAT and BAT.
2 neurons found in the brain work synergistically with enzymes, leptin and insulin:
Agouti-related protein expressing (AgRP) neurons encourage white fat storage otherwise known as “hunger” neurons that lend itself to storing white fat.
Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) are satiety signaling neurons that stimulate white fat “frying” or changing it to beige fat help to protect against fat storage and promote obesity. POMC neurons were found to be involved with insulin and leptin (produced by WAT) resistance that contribute to obesity blood sugar control and satiety.
Researchers from Monash University in Australia completed a study, http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/41912/title/Brain-s-Role-in-Browning-White-Fat/, where enzymes (phosphatases also found in POMC neurons) were removed from the signaling reactions of insulin and leptin.
When the communication signals for insulin and leptin increased so did beige fat, BAT became more active while WAT decreased signifying the relationship between the brain and body weight and metabolism.
There have also been findings on fat color and environmental influences. Exercise can “fry” white fat so that it acts like BAT via a hormone called irisin and increases UCP1 making brown fat more active.
Cold temperatures have been found to increase beige fat activity. In a Japanese study male volunteers burned almost 300 more calories while sitting in a room at 63 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. PET-CT scan showed an increase in beige fat activity.
There is even talk over brown seaweed, licorice root and hot peppers having similar capabilities.
The bad news for those who are overweight, they may not be able to convert white fat to brown fat as easily as their thin peers.
As science tries to get a better grip on understanding the brains role in activating calorie burning brown fat and putting the pieces of the puzzle together in order to understand BAT’s role in health, there is one thing for sure the darker the body fat the better.
On a side note, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. on this day. Thank you, sir.