Scientists from Joslin Diabetes Center found that exposure to cold temperatures reduced inflammation in obesity while improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
They also found that the process depended on brown adipose (fat) tissue—sometimes considered “good fat”—producing a naturally occurring molecule called Maresin 2 when stimulated by cold.
The research is published in Nature Metabolism and was conducted by Yu-Hua Tseng et al.
More than 40 percent of American adults have obesity, a complex condition that can increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
One mechanism by which obesity can lead to other health problems is by causing low-grade chronic inflammation, the accumulation of immune cells in insulin-sensitive tissues.
Scientists hypothesize that reversing—known as resolving—this chronic inflammation could prevent the onset of obesity-related diseases including diabetes and possibly facilitate weight loss.
Brown fat helps dissipate stored energy and may potentially promote weight loss and metabolic health.
In the study, the team discovered that cold exposure reduced inflammation and improved metabolism in obesity, mediated at least in part by the activation of brown fat.
These findings suggest a previously unrecognized function of brown adipose tissue in promoting the resolution of inflammation in obesity.
In two previous studies, the team discovered that cold exposure could activate brown fat to produce specific lipid mediators that regulate nutrient metabolism.
In the current study, the researchers identified a novel role for a lipid mediator produced from brown fat to resolve inflammation.
They created a mouse model that becomes obese when fed a typical high-fat, Western diet.
When the animals were exposed to a cold environment (around 40 degrees Fahrenheit), the researchers found that the animals’ insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism improved and their body weight decreased.
What’s more, the team also found a strong improvement in inflammation, as measured by reduced levels of a major inflammatory marker.
These findings suggest a previously unrecognized function of brown fat in promoting the resolution of inflammation in obesity.
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