4. Exercise hormone irisin sheds fat,
 helps people stay slender

Research led by the University of Florida researcher Dr. Li-Jun Yang, finds that while exercising, a hormone is released that not only helps the body shed fat, but also prevents it from forming.

A professor of cell biology and a team at Harvard Medical School discovered the hormone dubbed "irisin" in 2012. They isolated the natural hormone from muscle cells that trigger some of the health-promoting properties of exercise, which, they say, could be developed into novel treatments for diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

In the previous study, the Harvard-affiliated team also found that as irisin levels rise through exercise, the hormone switches on genes that convert white fat into brown fat - the "good" fat. This conversion is beneficial, as brown fat burns off more excess calories than exercise alone.

Dr. Yang and colleagues aimed to understand the role of irisin in humans better and increase the knowledge base of how the hormone helps convert calorie-storing white fat cells into energy-burning brown fat cells. According to the researchers, irisin hormone - which surges when the heart and other muscles are exerted - may also inhibit the formation of fatty tissue. The study findings, published in the American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, confirms previous conclusions that irisin may be a promising target to support people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Irisin works via a mechanism that boosts the activity of genes and a protein that are crucial to turning white fat cells into brown fat cells. The researchers also found irisin to have a role in burning fat by significantly increasing the amount of energy used by brown fat cells. Researchers exposed fat samples to irisin, and as a result, saw an almost fivefold increase in cells that contain the UCP1 protein - a protein crucial to fat burning.

Among the analyzed fat tissue samples, Dr. Yang and collaborators found that irisin suppresses fat cell formation by reducing the number of mature fat cells by 20-60 percent, when compared with the control group.

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