Findings Friday: The brain can help you burn fat

With many individuals pronouncing “losing weight” as their new years’ resolutions (I’m one of those individuals, I might add), here is some interesting new research:

The brain may instruct the body to burn more fat.

Now, around our bodies, fat is stored in fat cells, or adipocytes. This is called “white fat”. Around our necks, however, is “brown fat”, which may be induced to burn fat. The mechanism involves two hormones, leptin and not surprisingly, insulin. Leptin functions as an appetite suppressant, while insulin, of course, regulates glucose levels. Both hormones work together to stimulate fat-burning by stimulating a group of neurons in the hypothalamus (which regulate hunger and thirst, among other things) to induce fat-burning mechanisms.

The process is regulated by phosphatases, which are enzymes that inhibit leptin and insulin. Now, when these enzymes are inhibited, more fat is burned because the fat is not converted to white fat,but rather, brown fat, which then leads to excess fat being burned off.

[Fun fact: Where does fat go when it’s burned? Now, you may think it escapes via body heat, or is “burned off” by being released as body heat, but in fact, fat is burned by being released as CO2].

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