Nav: Home

Study links 'good' brown fat and exercise

May 01, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The power of exercise to boost metabolism could arise from a fat molecule with an unexpected source.

In a new study led by Kristin Stanford of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, a lipid released from fat, or lipokine, produced by brown fat was shown to surge in the bloodstream after exercise. Laurie Goodyear of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School was the co-lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Brown fat sets itself apart from ordinary white fat in its ability to generate heat. It's what keeps hibernating bears warm and it is known to be a powerful calorie burner. Some call it "good fat."

Until 2009, scientists thought brown fat was only in human babies, who benefit from its warming nature. But in recent years, brown fat has been recognized as a small part of adult fat stores, and become a focus of researchers seeking a better understanding of metabolism.

"Before this rediscovery of the role of brown fat, we were focusing our efforts on white adipose tissue - the fat most people think of when they think about obesity and ways to improve weight loss," Stanford said.

In the new research, two study groups underwent blood testing to evaluate changes in their lipids after bouts of moderate-intensity exercise. One group rode a stationary bike for 40 minutes; the other ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes. The 56 study participants included people of different ages and activity levels.

"One lipokine just shot right up to the top," said Stanford, a researcher in Ohio State's Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center.

The researchers found a consistent pattern of increasing levels of a lipokine called 12, 13-diHOME post-exercise. That fat molecule had previously been linked to exposure to cold temperatures.

"We know that exercise is great for metabolism, but we don't fully understand why that is on a cellular level. This study shows that burning of brown fat and this lipid in particular likely play an important role," said Stanford, an assistant professor of physiology and cell biology at Ohio State.

Most research suggests that exercise does not increase brown fat's ability to take up fuels such as carbohydrates and fats, nor does the exercise increase brown fat's ability to burn more calories - and this makes sense because the fuels are needed instead by the exercising muscles that are rapidly burning calories, Goodyear said.

"It's fascinating that rather than burning calories during exercise - which is what occurs with cold exposure - brown fat is functioning to signal the muscle to take up more fatty acids to use as fuel," she said. "During exercise, all the different metabolic tissues, surprisingly including fat tissues, 'talk' to each other, which enables the muscles to use energy, contract and perform."

To confirm the connection to brown fat, Stanford and her colleagues conducted a study in mice. When the animals exercised, they also had increased levels of the lipokine in their bloodstreams. But after surgical removal of brown fat stores from the mice, there was no evidence of an exercise-induced increase in the fat molecule - a finding that suggests that brown fat is the source of the lipokine, Stanford said.

"This shows that these lipokines can be regulated by exercise, and it highlights a new role that brown fat could play in the metabolic benefits of exercise," Stanford said, adding that the results were surprising because previous studies have shown that exercise leads to a decrease in brown fat activity.

Those studies found that brown fat takes up less glucose during exercise, which makes sense because it likely doesn't need fuel during exertion, she said. In this new research, fat molecules are shown to be released during exercise.

Stanford's hope is that this establishes a new role for exercise to improve health, she said.

Next, she wants to determine the mechanism for how this lipokine works. One day, the researchers hope, this work could lead to development of new pharmaceuticals to mimic the effects of exercise to enhance muscle function, lower blood lipid levels such as triglycerides and burn more energy to help treat obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Other Ohio State researchers involved in the study were Lisa Baer, Peter Arts, Francis May, Adam Lehnig, Vikram Shettigar and Mark Ziolo.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

MEDIA CONTACT: Marti Leitch, 614-293-3737;

Written by Misti Crane, 614-292-5220;

Ohio State University

Related Diabetes Articles:

The role of vitamin A in diabetes
There has been no known link between diabetes and vitamin A -- until now.
Can continuous glucose monitoring improve diabetes control in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin
Two studies in the Jan. 24/31 issue of JAMA find that use of a sensor implanted under the skin that continuously monitors glucose levels resulted in improved levels in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin multiple times a day, compared to conventional treatment.
Complications of type 2 diabetes affect quality of life, care can lead to diabetes burnout
T2D Lifestyle, a national survey by Health Union of more than 400 individuals experiencing type 2 diabetes (T2D), reveals that patients not only struggle with commonly understood complications, but also numerous lesser known ones that people do not associate with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity -- what do we really know?
Social and economic factors have led to a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes and obesity around the world.
A better way to predict diabetes
An international team of researchers has discovered a simple, accurate new way to predict which women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes after delivery.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Older Americans with diabetes living longer without disability, US study shows
Older Americans with diabetes born in the 1940s are living longer and with less disability performing day to day tasks than those born 10 years earlier, according to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
Reverse your diabetes -- and you can stay diabetes-free long-term
A new study from Newcastle University, UK, has shown that people who reverse their diabetes and then keep their weight down remain free of diabetes.
New cause of diabetes
Although insulin-producing cells are found in the endocrine tissue of the pancreas, a new mouse study suggests that abnormalities in the exocrine tissue could cause cell non-autonomous effects that promotes diabetes-like symptoms.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Reducing sugar content in sugar-sweetened drinks by 40 percent over 5 years could prevent 1.5 million cases of overweight and obesity in the UK and 300,000 cases of diabetes
A new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal suggests that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks (including fruit juices) in the UK by 40 percent over five years, without replacing them with any artificial sweeteners, could prevent 500,000 cases of overweight and 1 million cases of obesity, in turn preventing around 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes, over two decades.
Breastfeeding lowers risk of type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes
Women with gestational diabetes who consistently and continuously breastfeed from the time of giving birth are half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within two years after delivery, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Related Diabetes Reading:

The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally
by Jason Fung (Author), Nina Teicholz (Foreword)

The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes
by Joel Fuhrman M.D. (Author)

Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs
by Neal Barnard (Author)

Diabetes For Dummies
by Alan L. Rubin (Author)

Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me
by Adam Brown (Author), Kelly L. Close (Foreword)

Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars
by Richard K. Bernstein (Author)

The Complete Diabetes Cookbook: The Healthy Way to Eat the Foods You Love
by America's Test Kitchen (Editor), Dariush Mozaffarian M.D. (Editor)

Mayo Clinic The Essential Diabetes Book
by Mayo Clinic (Author)

Dr. Neal Barnard's Cookbook for Reversing Diabetes: 150 Recipes Scientifically Proven to Reverse Diabetes Without Drugs
by Neal Barnard (Author), Dreena Burton (Author)

Managing Type 2 Diabetes For Dummies
by American Diabetes Association (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.