By stimulating the conversion of white fat to ‘high burn’ brown fat, which is more efficient at releasing energy as heat, you have a good scenario for shedding the pounds. Study leader Dr Accili from CUMC says, "Turning white fat into brown fat is an appealing therapeutic approach, but it has been difficult to do so in a safe and effective way". A group of drugs called thiazolidazines (TZDs) can increase sensitivity to insulin and so accelerate the white to brown process, but they have too many adverse effects to be widely used. The researchers have therefore also turned their attention to a group of enzymes called sirtuins, thought to be involved in affecting rates of metabolism. By promoting the action of the sirtuins through the use of ‘agonists’ you can ‘tweak’ their activity. The early work has also resulted in the scientists finding a ‘biomarker’ and being able to look at mechanisms to combine the role of TZDs with the sirtuins to enable and measure the browning of white fat. However, much more work will need to be done before, or if, there is any resulting treatment. In the meantime the best advice for converting white fat to brown fat is to eat a sensible diet and take plenty of exercise.
Undesirable side-effects of medication. Full medical glossary
A protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body without being used up itself. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. Full medical glossary
The chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. Full medical glossary