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As rates of obesity skyrocket, pharmaceutical companies continue to offer the “next big thing” in weight loss.
Right now, that’s the GLP-1 agonist class of drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro. But these treatments are expensive and can have risky side effects… not to mention, they don’t work forever.
Wouldn’t it be great if the “next big thing” for losing weight was a way of revving up the body’s own fat-burning machinery?
Well, researchers in Germany may have hit upon that formula….
Harnessing the power of brown fat
As you may already know, there are three types of fat in our bodies. White fat makes up more than 90 percent of the body’s fat tissue and is usually located in the abdomen, buttocks and upper thighs.
Then there are the “good” types of fat: brown and beige. Brown adipose tissue converts energy into heat and is key to eliminating unwanted fat deposits. Beige fat are white fat cells that are in the process of converting to brown fat, and they behave much as brown fat cells do.
The researchers in Germany sought to identify the main regulator for increasing the formation of brown and beige fat.
“Our energy-dense foods lead to energy being stored in white fat,” says corresponding author Alexander Pfeifer, director of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University Hospital Bonn and a professor at the University of Bonn. “But losing weight isn´t that easy, as the body saves energy in response to a low-calorie diet.”
The goal of the researchers was to achieve additional energy release by increasing the body’s “biological oven” of brown fat while simultaneously reducing white fat.
The team used a mouse model to investigate the cAMP signaling pathway in fat metabolism that plays a central role in fat cells. They then discovered a relatively unknown protein called EPAC1 (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP) that’s responsible for the growth of brown fat. Not only that, but EPAC1 increases the formation of beige fat cells.
The researchers showed the cAMP signaling pathway is also active in human fat cells. And they used human organoids to confirm the function of EPAC1. Human organoids are organ-like microstructures that serve as a model of human brown fat.
In addition, the team found an association between a non-functional human EPAC1 gene variant and increased body mass index (BMI).
“Our study shows that EPAC1 is an attractive target to increase brown fat mass and thus also energy expenditure,” Pfeifer says.
Their discovery of EPAC1 is an important step toward their goal of finding medications to stoke the body’s fat-burning processes to decrease metabolic disease.
“Browning” your own white fat
While this development is exciting, it may be years before it results in therapeutics for weight loss. In the meantime, other studies have identified means of optimizing the conversion of white fat into brown fat.
Here are some ways of doing that that have been identified so far:
- Cold exposure
- Calorie restriction
- A combination of black seed oil and omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
Take a close look at the research and see which of these methods might work best for you. While exercise is always a great place to start, adding one or more of the supplements on this list could help supercharge your brown fat-burning capabilities.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s important to control inflammation as well since it can block brown fat activation. So be sure to follow the steps my colleague Virginia Tims-Lawson lays out to combat that inflammation so that you can truly harness the power of turning your white fat brown.
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Main regulator for the body`s oven discovered — EurekAlert!
EPAC1 enhances brown fat growth and beige adipogenesis — Nature Cell Biology