Precursor Fat Cells and Their Potential Role in Obesity

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on December 30th, 2023
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States today. Over 1/3rd of adults in America are clinically obese, and there are massive efforts nationwide not only to help people drop the pounds but to understand the mechanisms behind weight gain and obesity.

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The Role and Importance of Stem Cells

Stem Cells play a role in practically every aspect of human life. During the Embryonic Phase of development, we are nothing but a cluster of Stem Cells ready to differentiate into a human being.

Though most cells are highly specialized after birth, we still retain large numbers of stem cells, embedded throughout the human body. The science behind Stem Cells is complicated, and we are just beginning to understand the implications of their ongoing importance.

We realize that Stem Cell Therapies can provide some patients with great relief, though this form of therapeutic intervention is only in its infancy.

On the other hand, Stem Cells can also harm health under certain circumstances. For example, under a specific influence, these cells can rapidly develop into abnormal fat cells.

Recent medical research published by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Metabolic Research provides new information regarding how quickly these dormant cells can reach full maturity. It appears to take less than 24 hours.

It Takes One Day for a Precursor Cell to Become a Fat Cell

These Stem Cells remain inactive, awaiting appropriate stimuli to adapt to the human body's needs. Immature Stem Cells have the programming to become any cell that the human body needs to function normally.

These cells are also known as Pluripotent Stem Cells. These Precursor Cells can adapt to new circumstances quickly. Recent research from the University of Copenhagen offers new evidence regarding what substances and hormones can precipitate the formation of an adipose fat molecule from a stem cell.

In this case, researchers discovered that the hormone TNF-alpha could stimulate the modulation of a Stem Cell into a disordered fat cell.

TNF-alpha is a hormone that is produced in response to inflammation. They also discovered that a compound found in animal and plant matter known as Fatty Acid Palmitate also could stimulate this same process.

This compound is also known as Palmitic Acid. Fatty Acid Palmitate is a common ingredient in processed foods, contributing to sensations of mouthfeel and texture.

While this compound appears naturally in many foods, its artificial use as a flavor-modifier does create cause for concern.

Foods that are naturally high in Palmitic Acid include Palm Oil, meat, and dairy products, all of which are high in saturated fat.

Nutritionists and food scientists have long warned against the pitfalls of Processed Foods. While they are excellent in moderation, they tend to have a lot of ingredients that aren't as healthy as eating fresh.

They tend to contain refined sugar and flour which are readily converted into glucose by the body, contributing to Insulin Resistance and Diabetes risk. And they are chock full of ingredients like Fatty Acid Palmitate which may have consequences for health and wellness that we are just beginning to realize.

TNF-Alpha and Palmitate can convert Pluripotent Stem Cells into Fat Cells, but the cells are “misprogrammed” slightly, leading to issues.

Researchers can distinguish between healthy fat cells and triggered stem cells in a lab environment. They have found that patients suffering from Type-2 Diabetes and Obesity have high levels of these altered cells.

How Did We Learn How TNF-Alpha and Palmitic Acid Affect Precursor Cell Development?

In this study, adipose tissue was collected from 43 patients, 14 of which suffered from Type-2 Diabetes and were obese. Fourteen were overweight with no signs of Diabetes, and 15 were healthy controls.

Researchers compared the Precursor Fat Cells among all three groups, noting their differences. They found that obese, diabetic patients had an abnormally high volume of malfunctioning fat cells.

They combined this field research by treating healthy precursor fat cells with TNF-Alpha and Palmitic Acid and found that these two compounds converted these Pluripotent Cells into the problematic adipose fat cells present in diabetic, obese patients.

How Can We Reverse the Effects of Palmitic Acid and TNF-Alpha?

The long-term goal of this research is to discover new means to combat Obesity and the effects of Type-2 Diabetes.

There are definite signs that it may be possible to return these cells to their previous, precursor hormonal state, which could have positive effects on recursive inflammation, Insulin Resistance, and fat accumulation.

This recent research is crucial because it shows how quickly the Precursor Fat Cells activate and mature, and it also provides an example of exactly how such a process can be stimulated.

Previously, the medical community was merely aware that such physiological changes were possible.


Challenges in obesity research.


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