Fat cells remember unhealthy diet: study

– Fat cells can be damaged in a short amount of time when they are exposed to the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone TNF-alpha through a fatty diet, a new study shows. The researchers from Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research hope this new knowledge may be used to develop new preventive strategies for diabetes, Technology Networks reports.

24 hours. This is all it takes for a so-called precursor fat cell to have its ‘epigenetic recipe’ on how to correctly develop into a mature fat cell, reprogrammed. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone TNF-alpha, a study conducted by researchers from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen shows.

Precursor cells are cells that have not yet matured to undertake a specific function in the body, e.g. the function of a muscle or fat cell. Palmitate and TNF-alpha are able to disturb the development of the cell, causing it to develop into a dysfunctional fat cell later in its life. In particular, this reprogramming is found in obese patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, the researchers have found.

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We are exposed to palmitate through the food we eat. Especially foods containing large amounts of saturated fat such as dairy products, meat and palm oil are plentiful in palmitate. TNF-alpha is an inflammatory hormone that is secreted in the body during illness. Obese patients also have a higher level of TNF-alpha, as obesity is linked to inflammation.

‘Our results stress the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle for our metabolic health in the years to come. To a large extent, a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle can help prevent the reprogramming of our precursor cells. In the long term, we hope our study may be at the origin of new strategies to reverse the abnormal programming of fat precursor cells, making them healthy and functional once again’, says Romain Barrès, who is at the head of the study.