Exercise Instigates Fat-shedding Hormone

Posted 11/14/2016 | By HealthCorps

When experts are asked for the best weight loss program they’ll usually recommend combining a diet plan with exercise, with the caveat, that diet predominantly nudges the weight loss and exercise is the secondary helper.  A new study suggests that aside from helping to burn off excess calories or creating a calorie deficit or building muscle mass, exercise stimulates secretion of a hormone that helps individuals to shed pounds.

First up, here’s a quick primer on brown fat and white fat.  Babies are born with both types of fat.  Brown adipose tissue or BAT’s main function is to generate body heat.  Brown fat gets its color from high iron content, and it has more capillaries than white fat because of its higher oxygen consumption.  Brown fat generates heat by burning calories.  The fat that tends to build up around our waist and thighs is the white type of fat, and less desirable.  White fat is associated with storing excess calories that we consume.  Excess white fat, especially when located in the central body area or gut, is associated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other health conditions.  That’s why childhood obesity and teen obesity is considered a critical health issue.

The new study examined how the hormone irisin surges when exercise occurs, and how that surge helps to convert calorie-storing white fat cells into brown cells that burn energy.  The researchers also discovered that irisin inhibits the formation of fatty tissue.

In the study researchers collected fat cells from 28 women who had undergone breast reduction surgery.  After exposing the cells to irisin, the researchers found a five-fold increase in cells containing a protein called UCP1 that is crucial for calorie-burning.  This research seems to prove that irisin has a direct impact on fat, helping convert white fat cells into brown fat cells, which helps to increase the body’s fat-burning capacity.

 Research findings included:

Irisin works by boosting activity of genes and a protein that are crucial to converting white fat cells into brown fat cells.

Irisin increases the amount of energy used by brown cells, playing a significant role in burning fat.

Irisin also seems to suppress fat-cell formation and fat storage capacity.

The body produces small amounts of irisin, which highlights the need and benefit of a regular exercise habit, especially if an individual is overweight, obese or has an elevated risk for developing obesity due to family history and/or lifestyle.

Understanding the role of irisin helped these researchers to realize just how important a role exercise can play in specific types of fat, and the positive impact of exercise on irisin levels.  This knowledge may help to fuel future treatment programs that focus on exercise and its role in weight loss and preventing or treating obesity.  The study results should help to motivate people to exercise regularly.  Instead of buying into “miracle weight cures” or trying what amounts to silly or unsubstantiated diets and lifestyle trends, the many benefits of exercise should inspire individuals – young and old – to adopt a habit of regular, daily exercise.  Instead of “no pain- no gain,” the mantra should be “more exercise, more irisin, more fat burn!!”

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