Study: Cold cannot break down fat

Study: Cold cannot break down fat

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Fat cells as "combined heat and power plants": Researchers at BioTechMed-Graz decode energy supply
People have to keep their bodies at body temperature when they are cold. For this, the organism must draw energy. This should burn fat. The previous teaching was that the breakdown of the ATGL enzyme in "brown" fat cells is important so that sufficient energy is produced. This teaching view has now been refuted by a current study by the Medical University of Graz.

White fat makes up the majority of body fat and is responsible, among other things, for storing excess food energy. In contrast, energy is converted in the form of thermal energy in brown adipose tissue. It mainly sits in the neck area, on the sternum and on the spine. In young children, the brown fat ensures that the body temperature is maintained, since the surface of the body is large and the muscle mass is still low.

With their publication, the scientists refute the previous assumption that the breakdown of fat by the fat-splitting enzyme adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL for short) in so-called brown fat cells is crucial in order to generate sufficient fuel and thus maintain the body temperature in the cold in the range of five degrees to be able to receive.

It has now been demonstrated in the animal model that the lack of ATGL in the brown fat cells is compensated for by the increased provision of energy from other fat deposits. "However, if the ATGL is also missing in these, energy must also be supplied via food," explains Dr. Renate Schreiber, the first author of the study.

The enzyme in the heart plays an essential role in ensuring the distribution of heat in the body. "If the ATGL is missing in this organ, it is fatal," says Assoz.-Prof. Dr. Simon Sedej from the Medical University of Graz.

A few years ago, brown fat cells, originally only described in newborns, were also identified as central “combustion machines” in adults. "The current work makes an important contribution to the understanding of the physiological processes in these" thermal power stations ", which are essential for the development of therapeutic approaches in the treatment of obesity," explains Schreiber.

The study by the Graz researchers, who worked with colleagues from the Universities of Maastricht (NL) and Pittsburgh (USA), was funded by the Leducq Foundation, the European Research Council (ERC) and the Austrian Science Fund FWF.

Cold-induced thermogenesis depends on ATGL-mediated lipolysis in cardiac muscle but not brown adipose tissue
Renate Schreiber, Clemens Diwoky, Gabriele Schoiswohl, Ursula Feiler, Nuttaporn Wongsiriroj, Mahmoud Abdellatif, Dagmar Kolb, Joris Hoeks, Erin E. Kershaw, Simon Sedej, Patrick Schrauwen, Günter Haemmerle, Rudolf Zechner
DOI: 10.1016 / j.cmet.2017.09.004

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