Injecting Hormones as Good as Working Out?

Always searching to help us look and feel better, science may have found the right hormone to change how fat works in the body

When it comes to exercise, I'm a Fair-weathered Fannie: not too hot, not too cold. Working out to a home DVD bores me, but there's nothing worse than feeling fat and inferior in a sweaty, overcrowded gym. If six-pack abs came in a six-pack, I'd probably drink it. If jazzercise came in a jar to spread on some gluten-free bread, I'd spoon it. And if workouts came in an injection? Heck yeah, I'd roll my sleeve up. Leave it to science to make a groundbreaking discovery that could turn my white fat brown.

What's brown fat, you ask? Well, just like there's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there is good fat and bad fat. White fat is the fat-and-lazy fat -- they just sit there storing fat for eternal winters (probably wearing a Snuggie and hogging the popcorn). But brown fat uses oxygen, which means it moves, which means it requires energy, which means brown fat burns calories! The scientists named this hormone irisin, after the greek goddess, Iris, whose mythic role was as a messenger between the deities and humans.

I know what you're asking now: "Where can I get me some of this brown fat? Is it an ingredient in Greek yogurt?" Well, up until now, doctors would tell you that 'Elvis has already left the building.' While brown fat is prevalent in children, the human body was thought to have stopped producing brown fat as adults. Waaah.

But buck up, Betties! Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School have isolated this hormone and successfully injected it into mice. The irisin actually turned white fat cells into brown fat cells, mimicking the positive effect of a regular workout. In other words, it's an exercise injection!

The researchers also noted that while the irisin injections did not directly lead to weight loss, the mice did not gain weight, even when on a high-fat diet. So, like anything, irisin isn't a magic bullet. And the last thing any doctor worth their salt would recommend is a substitute for regular diet and exercise. But with this newfound research, doctors could begin to identify how many brown fat cells a person has, and then increase the amount in those with less Irisin. One practical human example is the disabled who cannot physically exercise stay in better physical condition.

Still, since Irisin is a polypeptide that is naturally produced by the body, Irisin injections can't be too far off the horizon. After all, women have been shooting weird substances in their faces and bodies for decades to stay young and fit. So why not unleash the brown goddess in you? Till then, guess I'll just do another round of Zumba for the Wii. *sigh*

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