Posted on Oct 11, 2016, 6 a.m.
New study discovers that exercise produces irisin, which helps convert calorie-storing white fat cells into energy-burning brown fat cells.
The hormone “irisin” was discovered in 2012, by a Harvard Medical School professor and his team. The team discovered that the hormone levels of irisin rise through exercise, converting white fat (bad fat) into brown fat (good fat). The conversion of the good fat burns more calories than exercise alone, which is beneficial for individuals needing to lose a few extra pounds.
Dr. Li-Jun Yang, professor of hematopathology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, headed the new research. The team's main objective was to acquire more knowledge about the hormone, and how its conversion process works. The research will be the first of it's kind to explore the hormone’s effects on human fat cells and tissues. The team observed that the irisin hormone obstructs the formation of fatty tissue, when the hormone levels are increased at the time of physical exertion. While people are exercising, they are actually releasing a hormone that helps shed unwanted body fat, and prevents fat from forming. Not only does exercising release the fat burning hormone (irisin), it also helps to strengthen the bones, and improve the health of people living with cardiovascular disease.
Irisin shows promise as a possible target to support those with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The exercise hormone increases the amount of energy the brown fat cells use. The test the researchers conducted began with the collection of fat cells, taken by 28 participants who have undergone breast reduction surgery. The fat samples were exposed to irisin, and the results showed a fivefold increase in UCP1 protein, a critical component in the fat burning process. Dr. Yang and his colleagues concluded that irisin suppresses the formation of fat cells, by reducing the amount of fat cells by up to 60%, when they were compared with the control group. The results prove that irisin reduces the amount of fat stored in the body, by impeding the process that turns undifferentiated stem cells into fat cells, while also promoting the stem cells' differentiation into bone-forming cells.
Although there are no magical cures, or single approach to treat obesity, exercise and lifestyle changes are effective in weight loss. The fact that the body reduces small quantities of irisin, is reason enough to exercise regularly. While plans are being made to improve the use of irisin in shedding unwanted fat, researchers say that people can help themselves. This means exercising regularly, eating healthy, and changing the way they think. Exercise reduces fat, burns calories, promotes stronger bones, and improves cardiovascular health. Irisin’s role is to regulate fat cells, and help people to stay slender, trimmer and healthier. Another benefit of irisin is to reduce plague buildup in the arteries, and prevent inflammation in the cells.
Irisin exerts dual effects on browning and adipogenesis of human white adipocytes, Zhang Y et al., American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00094.2016, published online 1 August 2016, abstract.