A protein has been identified which controls the conversion of white fat into brown fat, potentially helping to treat obesity.
The MKK6 protein has been shown to increase brown fat conversion in which lipids (fat cells) are burned to maintain body temperature. This helps to induce weight loss.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, are of significance because MKK6 was shown to be elevated in white fat tissue of people with obesity, and being obese increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Spanish scientists also discovered that MKK6 impeded the conversion of fat stores, so tackling this could lead to the development of new ways to treat obesity.
Brown fat is a very useful type of fat in the body, helping to generate heat instead of storing fat, and research is trying to understand how white fat, which stores calories, can be converted into brown fat.
Scientists from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) identified that deleting the MKK6 protein in mice protected them against diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes. This also increased their body temperature and ability to burn fat more easily.
Additionally, the elimination of MKK6 in mice that were already obese prevented further weight gain and led to a drop in body weight.
Lead author Dr Guadalupe Sabio says his team were particularly fascinated by the discovery that “white adipose tissue can be converted into brown adipose tissue, thus increasing body temperature”.
Dr Nuria Matesanz added that the results indicate people who are obese lose the ability to activate brown fat or convert white fat into brown.
However, people with obesity can lose weight and regain control of their health by adopting a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Visit our Low Carb Program for guidance on reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and also putting type 2 diabetes into remission.

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