Berries, grapes, and other fruits containing the compound resveratrol have been shown to convert excess unhealthy “white fat” into calorie-burning "beige" fat in new research that points the way to novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity.
The findings, by Washington State University scientists, are based on studies involving mice were fed a high fat diet. Those receiving resveratrol in amounts equivalent to 12 ounces of fruit per day for humans gained about 40 percent less weight than those eating less. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, a type of antioxidant found in most fruits.
Lead researchers Min Du and Songbo Wang said their studies also showed that hat resveratrol prompted the bodies of the mice to convert excess white fat into energy-burning beige fat by activating an enzyme called AMPK, which regulates the body's energy metabolism.
"Polyphenols in fruit, including resveratrol, increase gene expression that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body won't be overloaded," said Du. "They convert white fat into beige fat which burns lipids off as heat — helping to keep the body in balance and prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction."
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
Until recently, scientific researchers had always assumed there were only two types of fat, said Du — the white fat where lipids are stored as energy and brown fat that burns lipids to produce heat.
But several years ago, scientists discovered a new type of fat — beige fat, which also burns calories and energy — is generated from white fat in a process called "browning."
"Resveratrol can enhance this conversion of white fat to beige fat and when you have high rates of browning, it can partially prevent obesity," Du said.
"The current theory is that when we eat excessively, the extra lipids are stored in white fat. With obesity, the fat cells enlarge to a point where they're saturated and can't uptake more lipids. As the fat cells become overloaded and die, they release toxins and cause inflammation leading to health problems like insulin resistance and diabetes.
"Polyphenols like resveratrol are good as they enhance the oxidation of fat so it won't be overloaded. The excess is burned off as heat."
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