Consuming a high fat diet for short periods of three to seven days activates brown adipose tissue, the type of fat that burns calories instead of storing them. This, as demonstrated by a study entitled “Hypothalamic endocannabinoids inversely correlate with the development of diet-induced obesity in male and female mice”, helps prevent people in the early stages of obesity from gaining weight. The work was led by the NeuroLipid Research Group from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at UIC Barcelona.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Lipid Research, shows that an intake of food rich in fats for a period of several days increases endocannabinoid levels in the hypothalamus and activates brown adipose tissue, which expends calories, causing the person to lose weight.
According to Dr Núria Casals, the paper’s principal author alongside Dr Rosalía Rodríguez, “thanks to this study, which was performed on mice, we have discovered that the signal between endocannabinoids and brown fat is only triggered at the onset of obesity, and not in more advanced stages of the condition”.
Dr Rosalía Rodríguez went on to add that, “we have also verified differences in the outcome of the consumption of such fats during short periods based on gender. The endocannabinoid levels detected are higher in women, giving them a higher level of protection against obesity than men”.
The results of the study open the doors to exploring in further depth the correlation between endocannabinoids, the activation of brown adipose tissue and early changes in the hypothalamus, and to their use as new biomarkers for obesity. The research will also help develop different treatment approaches based on gender.
In addition to UIC Barcelona researchers, other study participants included experts from institutions such as the University of Barcelona (UB), a member, alongside UIC Barcelona, of the CIBERobn Group, and the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC).