New York, Jan 6 (IANS) In a first, researchers have documented that cold temperatures may encourage “unhealthy” white fat to change into “healthy” brown fat.
The study indicated that about 30 percent of cells that appear to be white fat can rapidly turn on the brown fat following cold stress.
“Fat cells can adopt a range of metabolic phenotypes, depending on physiological conditions and location in the body,” said James G Granneman, researcher from Wayne State University’s school of medicine in Detroit, Michigan.
“Our long-term goal is to harness this cellular and metabolic flexibility for the treatment of metabolic disorders linked to dysfunctional fat, such as Type 2 diabetes,” he stressed.
For the study, scientists used techniques that allowed them to tag specific cell populations in mice before exposure to cold.
Mice were then exposed to mild cold stress and researchers traced whether these cells became brown adipocytes in various adipose tissues in the body.
They found that 30 percent of cells that appear to be white adipocytes before cold stress can rapidly turn on the brown adipocyte program following cold stress.
“If you want to rev up your metabolism, do not throw out your winter coat just yet,” said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal that published the study.
“But we now know that cold triggers cellular mechanisms that lead to the formation of more brown fat. The ‘switch’ that controls what type of fat is created may be a promising drug target for a variety of obesity-related illnesses,” he added.