According to the journal Cell Metabolism, research carried out at Harvard Medical School, discovered that an existing FDA approved treatment for overactive bladder syndrome is also useful for encouraging the role of brown fat in the body, a type of fat that actually helps to burn the bad, white-yellow fat in the body. Mirabegron, as the drug is known, operates by activating receptors that are found on the surface of such fats and also on the surface of the bladder. The team of researchers thought that if the receptors on the bladder were affected by said drug, then there must be a relationship between it and weight control. Recent drug trials proved them right.

The dosage for patients taking mirabegron for an overactive bladder is 50mg. For the purposes of this trial, the 12 men who enrolled were administered 200mg. Straight away, higher metabolic activity was recorded. The drug stimulated the body to regulate glucose levels and to burn calories.

When a healthy person exercises, brown fat converts the more dangerous white- yellow fat into more of the good brown fat. By activating this process in obese people with the use of the drug, it could start a life-changing process of calorie burning, kick starting the new and healthier lifestyle, in the place of more invasive and potentially dangerous alternative methods such as bariatric surgery.

 Another method that has been examined, through study, in the area of brown fat, is simply what is known as, cold exposure. Although research is preliminary, there is evidence to suggest there is a relationship between weight loss and the body that is surrounded by colder temperatures. The method employed literally involves the exposure of the human body to the cold. Studies have shown that the production of brown fat, which has originally transformed from white-yellow fat, is in fact increased in the winter months or in instances where the body has been in contact with an ice pack, for example. But, where there was evidence of inflammation, cold exposure did not work as well. Therefore, those who are obese do not respond in the same way to cold exposure as those who carry less body weight do.

With the use of this drug though, the body is forced to burn extra calories instead of turning them into yet more fat tissue. A potential breakthrough for the current obesity crisis and a means to really turn someone’s life around, giving them realistic goals for achieving a healthier diet and lifestyle.

At stages of desperation with this crisis globally, drugs like mirabegron, that aren’t working on the suppression of appetite, and also those like mirabegron in the pipeline that are already FDA approved as treatments for other, unrelated conditions, are a ray of hope. Brown fat tissue could be the future in the tackling of obesity and so far seems a healthy route. Larger trials and safety and efficacy are yet to be evaluated of course, but the relationship between this bladder treatment and the metabolic activity of brown fat is breakthrough enough for the meantime.

Finding new uses for existing drugs is nothing new and in the field of obesity a drug called Liraglutide that was developed for type 2 diabetes has been found to work as an appetite suppressant. This medication has now been recommend for approval in the US and EU under the name Saxenda as a daily weight loss injection. One UK healthcare provider has already started prescribing Liraglutide for weight loss and they claim in a recent blog entry that the medication has a high success rate with minimal side effects observed.

While drug intervention cannot do all the work with the obese, it is quite clear that just lecturing people on diet and exercise has not worked so these alternatives are to be welcomed.

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