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Exercise Hormone May Prevent Obesity and Diabetes

Jan 26th, 2011

A recent study suggests that exercise results in an increase of a newly discovered hormone which may combat obesity and diabetes. The research published this month in Nature describes the hormone irisin which builds up in muscle after exercise. Irisin then travels through the bloodstream to white fat cells and turns them into brown fat. White fat is the type of fat that most people want to lose. White fat cells essentially store calories.  An excess of white fat leads to obesity and increases the risk for type II diabetes. On the other hand, brown fat cells are actually metabolically active, so they burn calories.


The experiments involved human volunteers who underwent a controlled jogging program for several weeks. Irisin levels in their muscle cells were found to be significantly higher after the exercise program compared to before the program. In related experiments, mice were given a high-fat diet. When injected with irisin, the mice were found to resist weight gain and their blood sugar levels remained stable. They did not develop diabetes despite being at an increased risk due to their diet.


Dr. Bruce Spiegelman, lead researcher in the study, concludes that “physical activity increases irisin levels in healthy people.” So it appears that irisin is an important factor in understanding how exercise improves our health.