We all know exercise is good for us, and often helps with weight loss. Researchers have found out more about how exercise releases a hormone, and how that hormone helps the body shed fat and prevent it from forming in the first place.
The study was led by the University of Florida, in which researchers looked at how the hormone irisin helps convert calorie-storing white fat cells into brown fat cells that burn energy.
Irisin, which surges when the heart and other muscles are exerted, also inhibits the formation of fatty tissue.
The findings, published recently in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, show that irisin may be an attractive target for fighting obesity and diabetes, said Li-Jun Yang, professor of hematopathology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine.
The study is believed to be the first of its kind to examine the mechanisms of irisin’s effect on human fat tissue and fat cells, researchers said.
Irisin appears to work by boosting the activity of genes and a protein that are crucial to turning white fat cells into brown cells, the researchers found. It also significantly increases the amount of energy used by those cells, indicating it has a role in burning fat.
“We used human fat tissue cultures to prove that irisin has a positive effect by turning white fat into brown fat and that it increases the body’s fat-burning ability,” Yang said.
Likewise, Yang and her collaborators found that irisin suppresses fat-cell formation. Among the tested fat-tissue samples analysed, irisin reduced the number of mature fat cells by 20 to 60 percent compared with those of a control group.
While it’s possible that the beneficial effects of irisin could be developed into a prescription medication, Yang said that is uncertain and remains a long time away.
“Instead of waiting for a miracle drug, you can help yourself by changing your lifestyle. Exercise produces more irisin, which has many beneficial effects including fat reduction, stronger bones and better cardiovascular health.”