There’s a reason behind why exercise is good for you: not only does the use of energy burn off fat while you are exercising, but it also promotes more energy use in general.
Researchers at the University of Florida’s Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine recently found that exercise leads to the release of a hormone that helps the body burn off fat. The hormone, irisin, also has a preventative function: it stops fat from forming, helping build stronger bones and improve cardiovascular health.
The study is the first to look at irisin’s effect on fat tissue and cells. The hormone, found in muscles after exercise, stimulates the conversion of white fat cells into brown fat cells. Brown fat is known as “good fat” because it burns off more calories than just exercise alone can. The hormone turns on genes that code for proteins that increase the burning of fat. By increasing the activity of genes and proteins associated with converting the fat cells, irisin can boost the amount of energy used by fat cells and increase burning fat.
The researchers, led by Dr. Li-Jun Yang, previously found that irisin increases calcium levels necessary for heart contractions, as well as prevents the accumulation of inflammatory cells that might block arteries. The researchers examined the fat cell samples donated by 28 participants. They analyzed the tissue samples after adding irisin and found that the hormone reduces fat storage in the body by stimulating stem cells to differentiate into bone cells rather than fat cells. It also directly reduces the number of fat cells.
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The human fat tissue cultures demonstrated that irisin increases the body’s ability to burn fat. The implications of the study are broad. The data suggests that exercise, and not “miracle drugs,” is inherently more effective for reducing fat, building bones, and improving heart health. Further research in this area could mean improvements in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes. For people who hope to slim down as well, maybe before the holidays, the study reaffirms the importance of regular exercise in combination with healthy diets.
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