Saturday, June 15, 2013


Fat is no doubt a bad word for most people concerned about maintaining body weight and in to day's market low fat or fat free food products outnumber normal ones to meet the increasing demand from such worried consumers. Whether it is fat or carbohydrate, diets containing these two constituents provide energy needed for basal metabolism and day to day work regimen. It is only when the intake of food provides more energy than needed, the body starts storing the excess ones in the form of fat deposits which in turn contribute to over weight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, CVD, blood pressure, kidney disorders etc. The logic of cutting down on calories by reducing fat and sugar/carbohydrates is fairly well accepted and there are many slimming diets offered by the health food industry with low caloric density. As against this a new approach is being tried to tinker with the existing body fat so that it is burned fast in stead of storing in different parts of the body. This involves transforming the white fats to brown fats through therapeutic or nutritional intervention as the latter has the major role in burning for calories, just like carbohydrate. Though no conclusive therapy has yet been developed the attempts by scientists are showing encouraging signs and here is a report that highlights the efforts in the laboratory. 

"Scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland have shown for the first time that brown and white fat cells in a living organism can be converted from one cell type to the other. Their work, using mice as a model organism, provides important new insights into the origin of brown fat cells, which is a prerequisite for the development of successful anti-obesity therapies. Two types of fat cells can be found in mammals and hence in humans: White fat cells function mainly as highly flexible energy stores which are filled in times of calorie abundance. The fat is stored in the form of lipid droplets, which are mobilized when energy is needed. Diametrically opposed in function are the so-called brown adipocytes: These cells specialize in burning energy in the form of fat and sugar to produce heat. New-born babies possess substantial amounts of brown fat and utilize it to maintain body temperature. Since it was recently shown that brown adipocytes also exist in adult humans, research has focused on understanding how brown adipocytes are formed. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to increase brown adipocyte number and activity in obese humans, allowing them to burn excess calories and thus reduce weight".

The findings cannot be taken seriously yet as the experiments are confined to laboratory mice and till this is proven beyond doubt it may still be a possibility for future. More over the empirical observations must be validated in human beings through clinical studies. While it is a fact that interconversion  between white and brown fat has been demonstrated, man is still in the dark regarding the means to achieve this so that it can be applied under real life situation. There is a possibility that suitable drugs might be evolved for such an intervention at the cellular level or achieving it through nutritional route by appropriate design of special foods with such functions. It may take quite some time to arrive at this point and humanity will have to wait in baited breath for such a development!  


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