Converting "bad" fats to "good" fats to treat obesity and diabetes

Converting “bad” fats to “good” fats to treat obesity and diabetes

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Scientists are getting closer to more effective therapies to treat obesity. Design by MNT; Photography by BSIP/Getty Images & Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
  • Obesity is a condition that can increase the risk of specific health problems, such as type 2 diabetes.
  • There are different types of fat that have different impact on the body; white fat cells, for example, store extra energy, while brown fat cells help convert fat into energy.
  • A recent study found that the metabolite myristoylglycine helped convert white fat cells to brown fat cells, which may aid in weight loss.

Maintaining a healthy amount of body fat is part of overall well-being. It also decreases the risk of specific health problems, making it an essential factor in preventative medicine. However, experts are still researching the best methods to help working people maintain or achieve a healthy body composition.

A recent study published in Metabolites found that a specific metabolite may be vital in helping some people lose excess body weight. They discovered that this metabolic product could help convert fat into an easier-to-burn form.

Everyone has unique nutritional needs, and there are different body types and weight needs. An overweight person is more at risk of having health problems. Obese people have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

Wendy Lord, a registered dietitian who was not involved in this ongoing research, told Medical News Today:

“Since the 1980s, obesity has increased rapidly and is now referred to as the scourge of modern times. This problem is closely associated with other medical conditions and can lead to joint pain, cardiovascular disease, stroke or a type 2 diabetes. Excess weight not only drains you of a lot of energy, but also hinders free and easy movement, for example, climbing stairs without shortness of breath.

While some people can lose weight without medical intervention, others need more help from doctors to achieve a weight that is right for them.

Experts struggle to understand which drugs and treatments are most effective in helping people lose weight. One area of ​​interest is the differences between types of fat.

Wendy Lord noted the main differences between white fat and brown fat:

“Brown fat and white fat are made up of different cells. White fat is made up of large droplets of lipids or fatty acids. Brown fat cells are filled with mitochondria. Mitochondria are rich in iron, which gives brown fat its color. They are the heart of your cells. They absorb nutrients like sugar and white fat and break them down to produce energy.

Brown fat vs white fat

“Brown fat stores more energy in a smaller space than white fat. White fat sits on our waist, hips and thighs and stores energy, releasing fatty acids when fuel is needed. Eating excessively for a prolonged period causes white fat cells to swell, resulting in obesity.
— Wendy Lord

The researchers in this current study were looking for a way to help convert white fat tissue to brown fat tissue. To do this, they began to study various therapies likely to promote this process.

Because they wanted their research to eventually be transferred for use with people, they focused on drugs that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already approved. Finding the right drug to focus on involved an intense and specific selection process. Their research used cell cultures and several different testing methods.

They found that the FDA-approved drug, zafirlukast, was effective in converting white fat tissue to brown fat tissue. However, the researchers noted that zafirlukast is actually toxic to people at higher doses, which makes using the drug itself dangerous.

Digging deeper, they discovered that a unique metabolite called myristoylglycine was produced when zafirlukast converted white fat cells into brown fat cells.

After further testing, they discovered that the molecule myristoylglycine could do the same job as zafirlukast on its own, but without being toxic to cells.

This discovery could lead to a new way to treat obesity and reduce the risk of various problems. Off-study author Dr. Sameer Murali, a specialist in obesity medicine at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, told MNT:

“Myristoylglycine represents a potential treatment that would essentially function as a ‘fat burner’, converting white fat cells from fat storage facilities into shiny fat burning fat cells.”

“If this discovery is able to produce a treatment that safely converts white adipose tissue into shiny adipose tissue, it would represent a fundamental shift in our current treatment paradigm. Not only would this represent a major opportunity to treat obesity, but it also has the potential to positively impact over 200 conditions associated with obesity.
— Dr. McCarthy. Sameer Murali

The study had some limitations. For example, it only used cell cultures, so further research is still needed before knowing if the results have potential application in humans.

Researchers will need to prove the drug’s efficacy and safety in humans and possibly in clinical trials before they know whether this discovery could benefit humans. And if this metabolite is used as a treatment, it may only be suitable for specific people.

Dr. Murali noted several additional research items and considerations. He said that while the study and its results showed “enormous potential”, further work was needed “to demonstrate the safety of myristoylglycine as a possible treatment”.

“For example, the authors note that existing drugs such as rosiglitazone that have the same effect have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is not known whether or not myristoylglycine would have similar adverse effects on other tissues if taken as a drug,” he said. DTM.

“Currently, these findings are limited to demonstrating the “browning” of fat white blood cells under laboratory conditions. The next step would be to demonstrate that it could be replicated safely in animals before it could be considered a viable treatment in humans.
— Dr. McCarthy. Sameer Murali

Overall, this research is an important step toward expanding treatment options to help people achieve appropriate body weight. As research progresses, it could improve to help improve health outcomes for many people.

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