Burn More Calories? Eat More Fat

What now?  We've been told and told to stay away from fat.  But now scientists are finding that a certain kind of fat can help raise metabolisms, to burn more calories.

In mice.

According to newswise.com, scientists looked into why "skeletal muscles of obese people contained a certain type of enzyme that breaks down saturated fats."

So researchers used a transgenic mouse model (one that's had DNA from a different animal injected into it), and we took the gene that makes the enzyme that’s not normally expressed and took away it’s regulation to make it active all the time,” newswise.com quotes Chad Paton, an assistant professor of nutritional biochemistry in the Department of Nutrition, Hospitality and Retailing. “What we found in those animals is they had a hypermetabolic rate compared to the wild mice, increased energy consumption and greatly increased these animals’ exercise capacity.”

The enzyme apparently "converts saturated fat into monounsaturated fat, which is easier to metabolize. Fatty adipose tissue produces it all the time as a way of regulating itself. But only "in heavily exercised muscle tissue or in the case of obesity does skeletal muscle produce the enzyme," newswise.com reports he said.

And what kind of fats are we talking about?  Polyunsaturated fats, "particularly linoleic acid, gotten only through diet."  So what's the big deal about linoleic acid?  The modified mice were eating more food, yet weighed less than the wild mice. On top of that, their ability to exercise increased.

So what's going on? The modified mice had a "hypermetabolic" rate, according to newswise.com, and greater energy consumption, and they experienced greatly increased exercise capacity. Paton gives the example of mice who are put on exercise wheels, who normally tire after seven to 10 minutes. "These genetically modified animals wouldn’t fatigue for about 70 minutes," Paton told newswise.com. "So they were running a lot longer. Sedentary mice looked more like exercise-trained mice. That really made us look in a lot more detail what was happening in the skeletal muscle.”

I'm going to let Paton explain. "The linoleic acid switched on part of the muscle cell’s DNA that encouraged the cells to make more mitochondria and to turn on a protein that encouraged the cell to burn off excess energy from the extra food as heat – a process called uncoupling."

Humans store unused energy as fat, Paton said. And while that helped our ancestors survive, it can lead to obesity for some people in today’s world of plentiful food. Of course, you can't genetically modify people.

“You can’t change the human genome, but that gives us insight if you could activate the same part of the DNA in human in skeletal muscles that burn off excess energy as heat instead of storing it," Paton told newswise.com. "Perhaps it’s a supplement people could take that will turn on the cells’ metabolic machinery burn off energy and increase mitochondria.”


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