Researchers in the US have apparently learned how to turn so-called ‘bad’ fat into ‘good’ into what’s being described as a possible future treatment for obesity.
The team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore say they have transformed inert white fat into brown fat to burn off calories and weight.
They say that by knocking down the expression of a protein in brains known to stimulate eating, Johns Hopkins researchers say they not only reduced calorie intake and weight, but also transformed fat into a type that burns off more energy. The finding could lead to better obesity treatments for humans, the scientists report.
“If we could get the human body to turn ‘bad fat’ into ‘good fat’ that burns calories instead of storing them, we could add a serious new tool to tackle the obesity epidemic,” says study leader Sheng Bi, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The Johns Hopkins study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, looks at two types of fat made by the body: white and brown adipose tissue. White fat is the typical fat that ends up around your middle and other places, and is the storehouse for the extra calories we eat. White fat cells have a single large droplet of lipid, one of fat’s building blocks, such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cells in brown fat, considered a “good fat” for its energy-burning qualities, contain many little droplets of lipid, each with its own power source, which enables heat generation. Babies have ample stores of brown fat at birth as a defense against the cold, but it mostly disappears, as adults have very little of this calorie-burning tissue. Bi and his colleagues designed an experiment to see if suppressing the appetite-stimulating neuropeptide Y (NPY) protein in the dorsomedial hypothalamus of the brain would decrease body fat in rats. Located just above the brain stem, the hypothalamus helps regulate thirst, hunger, body temperature, water balance and blood pressure.