As obesity is one of the biggest threats to health in this century, scientists are trying to find innovative ways to tackle this issue. Our lifestyle became lazier, since technology is doing most of the work and transportation is easier than ever. In other words, we spend too much time sitting and eating and we are getting fatter. Even though regular exercise and healthy diet remain main components of maintaining proper shapes, now scientists at Washington State University have shown that berries, grapes and other fruits convert excess white fat into calorie-burning beige fat.
During the research, mice were fed a high fat diet. The experiment group was given resveratrol in amounts equivalent to 12 ounces (about 340.2 grams) of fruit per day for humans. Surprisingly, these mice gained about 40% less weight than control group of mice. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, a type of antioxidant found in most fruits.
It was believed that resveratrol can help fight obesity for a long time, but science failed to explain how. Researches were focusing on too high concentrations of this substance – too high for a human to consume on a normal diet. This new research reached its goal and explained that mice fed a diet containing 0.1 % resveratrol were able to change their excess white fat into the active, energy-burning beige fat.
Professor Min Du, one of co-authors of the study, explained that polyphenols in fruit increase gene expression, which enhances the oxidation of dietary fats, which, in turn, prevents body from getting overloaded. He said that “they convert white fat into beige fat that burns lipids off as heat – helping to keep the body in balance and prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction”. Enzyme called AMPK, which regulates the body’s energy metabolism, stimulates this transition of white fat into beige fat in this process.
Resveratrol seems to be one drug for all diseases – it is thought to slow aging and fight cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and diabetes, but some of these claims are still under debates. However, scientists say that resveratrol is only used in this study to represent all polyphenols that provide beneficial health effects.
Scientists say that increasing intake of polyphenols is easy – one just has to include more fruits into everyday diet. These compounds are found in all fruits but are especially rich in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and apples. Healthy dose would be about two or three servings of fruit per day. It was noticed long ago that these compounds are found in wine too. But there is only a small amount of them and eating fruit provides other health benefits as well.
This research relied on earlier discoveries of the scientists. Previously it was believed that there are only two kinds of fat in human body – white fat where lipids are stored as energy and brown fat that burns lipids to produce heat. But scientists discovered beige fat, which is in between these two kinds. White fat is needed as well, as it is protective when it is healthy, but too big amount of it can lead to imbalance and diseases. Resveratrol can enhance this conversion of white fat to beige fat and partially prevent obesity. Polyphenols in general enhance the oxidation of fat, preventing it from getting overloaded, which is what is believed to cause health problems like insulin resistance and diabetes.
Diet and regular exercise is still the recipe of healthy life. Including more fruit does not seem too hard, even with our contemporary lifestyle, and it is hard to go wrong with such diet. But in the end it all comes to a personal will to stay healthy and fit.