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Longevity Briefs: The fat that could cure obesity

Posted on 15 October 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: In adults, adipose tissue, otherwise known as fat, consists largely of white fat. White fat is adept at storing calories and, if possessed in abundance, can be one of the main drivers of obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

However, adipose tissue also contains another type of fat. Brown, or beige, fat. Unlike white fat, brown fat is packed full of mitochondria. These mitochondria are structures within the brown fat cells which burn calorie, creating heat. This process has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity and its related conditions. However, studies have shown that the older we get the less brown fat we have.

Source: ComBATing aging—does increased brown adipose tissue activity confer longevity? doi: 10.1007/s11357-019-00076-0

What did the researchers do: This review, published in the Geroscience journal, discusses the research surrounding the use of brown fat as a weapon to fight against the obesity epidemic. It also provides details of the relationship of brown fat and aging and its ability to promote healthspan and lifespan.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: As humans age brown fat tissue diminishes. The authors put this down to several factors, including: the downregulation of FOXA3 and UCP1 gene expression, the aging of brown fat native immune cells, and via age-related mitochondrial dysfunction. The review highlights that with its ability to act as a metabolic sink, soaking up vast amounts of circulating glucose and lipids, brown fat stimulation as a therapeutic avenue has enormous potential for improving human longevity.

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