I was quite surprised when I read a story from Mailonline reporting that yo-yo dieting may actually be good for you! For years we’ve heard that it’s terrible, and now a study shows that mice who yo-yo’ed (excuse the strange image) lived longer than those who remained on steady low or high fat diets. But, then again, every day there’s another diet, another piece of evidence about gaining or losing weight that contradicts the evidence from yesterday, or a new super food to curb appetite and increase metabolism so we can look like the super model of the moment.
Jeeze, who/what to believe?!
Well, I’m thrilled to report that all this crazy so-called diet science may be thrown out the window due to a discovery by my dad, Dr. Gerald Kolodny, chief of Nuclear Medicine at Beth Deaconess Hospital, and his colleagues at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. A few years ago, my father and his colleagues discovered the existence of brown fat in adults.
So what is brown fat (no credit to the person who says an overweight person with a tan)? Everybody is born with brown fat and white fat. White fat is used to store excess calories. But brown fat actually burns calories to produce heat. Infants need it to produce heat to keep their temp high despite their tiny bodies. But the brown fat decreases as we age, and until now, people assumed it dissipated altogether.
When physicians started doing pet scans, they noticed a type of fat dispersed among white fat that was taking up a lot of glucose in cold weather. My father and his colleagues showed that patients not only exhibit brown fat, but if you keep a person cold, they will increase their usage of glucose thanks to activity by the brown fat. The next stage of this research is to find ways to accelerate brown fat, so that we can burn more calories, and lose weight.
Even better news, my father and his team received a grant from the National Institute of Health to get to the next stage. How so? Forgive me if this gets technical, but for those biology geeks, here we go:
There is a particular molecule in the body called UCP1 (uncoupling protein 1) that is unique to brown fat and is the molecule that generates heat (as opposed to stores fat). It would be nice to have a test to visualize how much UCP1 people have so that we can pinpoint it and stimulate it. My dad and his team are proposing a novel way to pinpoint and visualize the protein.
Phew, a lot of info there but suffice it to say we’re on the road to figuring out how to end our obesity epidemic one and for all.
Way to go Daddy!