Obesity: The role of ‘beige’ fat and cytokines

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A new study in mice may help identify new methods to treat obesity and metabolic disorders in the future.

The study revealed the mechanism through which cytokines — immune cell signaling molecules — promote the production of beige fat, thus reducing obesity and other metabolic disorders.

Administering the cytokine interleukin-25 to mice on a high-fat diet prevented them from developing obesity and improved their responsiveness to insulin.

Obesity is a major risk factorTrusted Source for various metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, today, most of the world’s population lives in countries where obesity kills more people than malnutrition.

The prevalence of obesity has significantly increased in adults in the past few decades. As such, researchers are engaged in finding new ways to understand and potentially treat obesity.

A new study, which appears in the open-access journal PLOS Biology found that high levels of a cytokine — interleukin-25 — promotes the production of beige fat cells.

The study’s results might help find new ways to treat obesity and other metabolic disorders.

Not all fat stored in the body is harmful to health. Typically, there are two types of fat tissue: brown and white.

Brown fat helps turn food into heat, whereas white fat is responsible for storing calories; thus, an excess of white fat contributes to obesity.

However, scientists have discovered another type of fat cell in human adults, known as beige fat. Typically, these cells burn energy in a similar way to brown fat rather than storing it like white fat.

How do beige cells burn energy?
Beige fat cellsTrusted Source, or adipocytes, are present in white adipose tissue. They can perform functions similar to both white and brown adipocytes. Generally, they act like white cells by storing energy.

However, when exposed to cold temperatures, they behave like brown cells and dissipate energy by creating heat.

In this recent study, the researchers fed mice with a high fat diet. They found that when they administered the cytokine interleukin-25, the animals gained less weight and demonstrated improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

The researchers also showed that exposure to a cold environment was associated with increased levels of interleukin-25 signaling.

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