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Science!: The Best Illusions of the Year!

Lauren Admire | 17 May 2010 21:00
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Trick Your Fat Into Losing Itself

So, there are two different types of fat in our bodies: energy-using brown fat and energy-storing white fat. Brown fat is typically found in babies, who consistently convert it into energy to help themselves keep warm. As they grow, children eventually learn to regulate their own body temperature, and the brown fat converts to white fat, which is the energy-storing fat that results in the rapid expansion of adult waistlines. Some remaining pockets of brown fat can be found in adults - more so in skinnier folks - but for the most part, it's all white fat.

Scientists have now located an enzyme, COX-2, that makes white fat act more like brown fat. When they upped the amount of COX-2 in lab mice, the result was an astounding 20 percent loss of weight.

"There has been a lot of excitement around brown fat, but ... there wasn't any clear indication that turning up brown fat would make animals lose weight," explains Chad Cowan, from Harvard Medical School.

The study seems to show that it does, but this doesn't mean doctors will be offering COX-2 injections as a safe alternative to liposuction anytime soon.

According to Stephan Herzig, team lead on the study, "the COX-2 enzyme is present in a wide range of body tissues, and revving up its activity may lead to some serious side effects such as clotting problems, increased sensitivity to pain and even muscle abnormalities."

Even more alarming: In order to coax white fat into acting like brown fat, the scientists had to trick the mice into believing they were at a colder temperature than they actually were. By dilating blood vessels and increasing the pumping of the heart, they tricked the bodies of the mice into thinking they were shivering, which promoted the use of brown fat to warm themselves.

Source: Discover

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