Unhealthy Fat Could Be Turned Into ‘Good Fat’ to Keep Us Youthful and Thinner

​Cold exposure is the only known way to increase brown fat tissues – credit Mika Ruusunen

Did you know your body actually contains three different kinds of fat? That’s right, humans have brown, beige, and white fat adipose tissues, and a newfound ability to turn one into the other could create a revolution in metabolic disease prevention.

By turning a select number of genes in white fat cells off, they reverted to pluripotent cells, which can then become the cells for many different tissues and organs. In the case of a new study from the universities of California Davis and Copenhagen, they turned white fat into brown fat.

Brown fat is very useful for human beings to have, though many of us have very little owing to the comfortable nature of modern life. Brown fat burns a lot of calories to create heat through a process called thermogenesis.

The idea of having ‘more’ fat—of any kind—might seem a strange benefit for anyone other than a marine mammal, but the more brown fat an individual has, the less risk they are for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and all the other modern hallmarks of the standard American diet.

The researchers returned white fat cells to a state of embryonic pluripotency through the Yamanaka Factors, a set of four genes discovered by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for which he won the Nobel Prize.

Then they changed other epigenetic switches, epigenetics being adaptations to genetic expression developed through environmental stressors, and successfully converted the white fat to brown fat.

Cultivating those brown fat cells in a lab, they then injected them into overweight sheep, who were able to use the brown fat to burn away white fat.

It actually cured the sheep’s diabetes and metabolic disorders—a huge moment in the research field.

At Copenhagen, they had already been experimenting with a potential drug that could stimulate the calorie-burning activity of brown fat by activating genetic switches in the same way that exposure to cold stimulates it which unfortunately also creates stress and high blood pressure as the body believes it’s fighting to keep warm that could be dangerous for some folks.

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They identified a cell surface receptor called GPR3 that doesn’t need to receive messaging molecules to activate, and which are particularly numerous on the surface of brown fat cells. They found it increased their self-signaling and increased the rate at which the brown fat chewed through calories.

Human infants are born with a lot of brown fat, but it decreases as we age. White fat on the other hand increases as we age, and creates inflammation associated with many of the hallmarks of aging.

Its primary function is to store excess sugar and carbs as glycogen. People don’t pack on the white pounds by eating fat in the form of triglycerides, but through a variety of lifestyle choices, a lack of exercise, and most importantly a high intake of refined vegetable oils.

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Cold exposure is the best way to increase brown fat adipose tissue. It not only creates brown fat which was found to generate heat at a rate of 252 calories per day compared to 78 calories from those who had no detectable brown fat, but it actually absorbed more glucose from the bloodstream than insulin-stimulated glucose uptake into regular muscle tissue.

Researchers believe that finding cheap and safe ways to increase the general population’s amount of brown fat could reverse the obesity crisis in a fairly natural way.

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