‘Beige Fat’ Breakthrough: Calorie-Burning Powerhouse Could Revolutionise Weight-Loss

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‘Beige Fat’ Breakthrough: Calorie-Burning Powerhouse Could Revolutionise Weight-Loss

Image: DMARGE/Geneng News

Researchers at UCSF discovered a method to convert white fat to calorie-burning beige fat, revolutionising potential weight-loss treatments.

You’ve heard of fat, you may even have heard of brown fat, but have you ever heard of beige fat? Well, for those of you looking to shed a few pounds, this could be your lucky day…

In a landmark move that could reshape the future of weight-loss treatments, researchers at UC San Francisco have unveiled a method to transform ordinary white fat cells into calorie-burning beige fat cells. This discovery, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, highlights the potential of a new class of weight-loss drugs and may shed light on why previous therapies have failed.

The Science Behind Beige Fat

Traditionally, fat cells in mammals come in three varieties: white, brown, and beige. White fat cells store energy, brown fat cells burn energy to generate heat, and beige fat cells possess a unique blend of these characteristics. While brown fat is present in clusters, beige fat cells are dispersed within white fat deposits, offering a uniquely widespread energy-burning capability.

Image: Nature

The process of converting white fat to beige fat was previously thought to necessitate stem cells. However, the new study from UCSF demonstrates that this conversion can be achieved by suppressing a specific protein, KLF-15. This protein plays a pivotal role in fat cell metabolism, and its suppression can prompt white fat cells to adopt the characteristics of beige fat cells, significantly increasing their calorie-burning potential.

Implications For Weight-Loss Treatments

The breakthrough could explain why clinical trials for weight-loss drugs targeting fat transformation have been largely unsuccessful. Previous attempts focused on stimulating a receptor called Adrb3, which, while effective in mice, did not yield the same results in humans. The UCSF study, however, points to a different receptor, Adrb1, as the key player in human fat cell metabolism. By targeting Adrb1, researchers believe they can more effectively promote the conversion of white fat to beige fat in humans.

The newly discovered process in action… Image: Journal of Clinical Investigation

Dr. Brian Feldman, the senior author of the study, was keen to talk about the significance of this discovery, noting that the bar for converting white fat cells into beige ones is not as high as previously thought:

“We’re certainly not at the finish line, but we’re close enough that you can clearly see how these discoveries could have a big impact on treating obesity.”

Dr. Brian Feldman

This approach could potentially sidestep the side effects associated with current injectable weight-loss drugs — if you’ve been living under a rock, a famous example of this would be the recent Ozempic craze — which often impact appetite and blood sugar levels by acting on the brain. Instead, by focusing on fat deposits, the new method may offer a more targeted and lasting solution.

While this research is still in its early stages, the implications for obesity treatment could be massive. By harnessing the body’s own fat-burning mechanisms, this new approach could pave the way for more effective and safer weight-loss therapies.