Goodbye Extra Pounds: How to Turn Fat into a Calorie Burner

This research was published on July 1 in the review The Journal of Clinical InvestigationThe team of scientists behind this have developed a new technique, making it possible to transform white fat, often singled out in weight gain, into brown fat, known for its ability to burn calories efficiently. This breakthrough could lead to new therapeutic solutions in the fight against obesity..

As a reminder, obesity is a complex chronic disease characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat that poses a major health risk. It is defined by a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. According to WHO figures : ” In 2022, 2.5 billion adults aged 18 and over were overweight and of these, more than 890 million were obese, representing 43% of overweight adults aged 18 and over (43% of men and 44% of women); this proportion has increased from 25% in 1990. ” Obesity has therefore become in 30 years one of the most important global public health issues.

A revolution in understanding the role of fats

Conventionally, we distinguish two types of adipose tissue: white fat (White Adipose Tissue) and brown fat (Brown Adipose Tissue)The first plays the role of a long-term lipid reservoir, nestling under the epidermis and around the organs to provide an insulating and shock absorber function.

Conversely, brown fat, rich in cellular generators, burns lipids to produce heatproving particularly valuable in infants and hibernating mammals (marmots, dormice, bears or hedgehogs for example).

This differentiation has long served the human species during its evolution. Indeed, during periods of glaciation and food shortages, white fat allowed adults to store energy during times of abundance to survive during times of famine. At the same time, brown fat helped infants and young children maintain body heat, vital for survival in cold environments where the ability to generate internal heat was essential to survival.

Problem: in our contemporary societies, characterized by an overabundance of dietary fats and an increasing sedentary lifestylewhite fat tends to accumulate excessively, to the detriment of our health.

The key role of the Klf15 protein

Scientists Brian Feldman and Liang Li, authors of the study, investigated the mechanisms that allow white fat to be converted into brown fat, the latter known for its ability to burn calories. Their work focused on a specific protein called Klf15, abundantly present in white fat.

By knocking out Klf15 in rodents, they observed a transformation of white fat into more active and thermogenic adipose tissue, similar to brown fatThis transmutation occurs through increased production of an adrenergic receptor (protein located on the surface of cells that receive and respond to signals from adrenaline and noradrenaline) called Adrb1.

In the absence of Klf15, levels of this receptor increase, facilitating the conversion of white fat to brown fat. In other words, deprived of Klf15, White fat behaves similarly to brown fatconsuming more calories and generating heat. A discovery that suggests the development of new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of overweight and obesity.

Very promising therapeutic applications

The highlighting of This mechanism opens up considerable therapeutic horizons. While clinical studies are currently exploring the use of Adrb3 receptor agonist molecules (substances that, when they bind to these receptors, activate them and mimic the effect of adrenaline and noradrenaline) to optimize metabolism, this research suggests that the Adrb1 receptor could constitute an even more relevant therapeutic target.

Feldman and colleagues’ work has revealed that by inhibiting Klf15 expression, not only can white fat cells differentiate into beige fat cells (an intermediate phenotype between white and brown), but this cellular transition is also more accessible than initially thought. This technique should be viewed as a form of biohacking or of reprogramming of fat cells.

The results of this work are very promising, but the hardest part remains to be done: translate them into effective treatments. However, this will absolutely not solve the problem of obesity at the source, which is a multifactorial disease: poor eating habits, harmful strategies of the players in the agri-food sector promoting junk food (an excellent report fromArt addresses this issue), genetic, metabolic or environmental factors. However, this remains a huge step forward in understanding the metabolic mechanisms of the human body.

  • Researchers have developed a technique to convert white fat into brown fat to burn calories more efficiently.
  • This discovery could lead to new approaches to treating overweight and obesity by reprogramming fat cells.
  • Despite this progress, obesity remains a complex disease and if a treatment one day emerges from this research, it will not solve the problem at the root.

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