Does fat have a life of its own?

  •  May 28, 2020


Does fat have a life of its own?

Does your belly have a life of its own? Scientists discover that adipose tissue has a different circadian cycle (internal clock) than the rest of the body. Understanding this mechanism can help develop new therapies.

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In humans, glucose tolerance varies with time of day, but how the mechanism responsible for insulin sensitivity fluctuates throughout the journey remains uncertain.


A study by Brigham and Women's Hospital (United States) and the University of Murcia (Spain) investigated whether human adipose tissue (fat) has its own circadian cycle, which could influence insulin sensitivity.

Insulin sensitivity keeps blood glucose levels balanced.

The research analyzed visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue samples from 18 people who underwent bariatric surgery.


Observing the samples, the researchers found that subcutaneous fat has a circadian rhythm intrinsic to insulin sensitivity.

In fat under the skin, insulin sensitivity peaked around noon, and was more than 50% higher than at midnight.

Interestingly, these variations were not observed in visceral fat.


"Our study demonstrates that subcutaneous adipose tissue has an internal clock that is capable of regulating insulin sensitivity," said study author Dr. Frank Scheer.

"This programming of fat cells can contribute to the daily rate of glucose tolerance observed in humans," added co-author Dr. Marta Garaulet.

"Our next steps are focused on whether or not we can influence the circadian clock intrinsic to this tissue and whether that influence can change insulin sensitivity."

The study was published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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