Have you gained a lot of pounds after quitting smoking, even though your calorie intake has not increased by a significant margin?
Well, according to a study conducted by the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan, a previously undiscovered fat cell type has now been found, and further study into it could provide valuable insight as to why a person gains weight after ditching cigarettes and perhaps the problem of obesity in general.
The Beige Fat Cell
You probably already know that all the fat in our body is not equal when it comes to the nature of formation and the effort it requires to burn it. The beige fat cell is a relatively new discovery, however a lot is known about it now thanks to the efforts of researchers like Jun Wu, who is a research assistance professor working at the LSI.
She is also the study’s senior author, as it was in one of her past research works that she had become acquainted with the beige fat cell for the first time.
The beige fat cell activates when our body produces heat in a process called thermogenesis, thereby burning and releasing energy. To understand how these cells functioned, Wu decided to conduct a study of already activated beige fat cells.
What she found was that beige cells contained a molecule called CHRNA2, or Cholinergic Receptor Nicotinic Alpha 2, which is a protein with a vital role in the process of thermogenesis, in both humans as well as mice.
Unfortunately, the white fat which our body contains does not carry this CHRNA2 molecule, as white fat is created by the body with the intention to store instead of burning fat to create energy.
The CHRNA is also present elsewhere in our body, specifically as a subunit to the much larger nAChR protein. The nAChR are important proteins in the brain as they help with chemical signaling especially between neurons.
By acting like channels, the proteins pave way for ions such as calcium and potassium to cross through the membrane of the cell. These proteins act like channels either when attached to the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, or when responding to the intake of nicotine.
The nAChR channels have a far-reaching impact on our health, at least way more than you may realize. Optimal functioning of these channels may ensure a good quality of sleep at night, while if these channels are not functioning properly than you may experience anxiety, fatigue, or even distortions in your memory.
The Connection Between CHRNA2 and Smoking
As the name of the molecule suggests, nicotine reliance is also regulated by the CHRNA2 in the brain, so if the same molecule is present in the beige fat cells, then there potentially exists a correlation between quitting smoking and weight gain. More research into the subject area could also provide greater evidence for the belief that consumption of nicotine suppresses hunger.
However, in no way is this meant to endorse you to start smoking in order to control your weight by suppressing hunger with nicotine intake. Instead, findings like these may eventually help those with problems in their metabolic system or those who are obese.
For Our Benefit
Beige fat does not usually come up in conversations surrounding health and fitness, when in fact it plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal metabolic system in our body. In fact, even a minor fault in only a part of this molecule can wreak havoc in the body’s metabolism, resulting in many metabolic challenges.
Wu is confident that further research into this molecule would pave way for improvements in the treatment of unhealthy weight gain, especially once a direct pathway to the activation of beige fat is discovered.
Once that happens, treatment of excessive weight can become much more effective, both in terms of its outcome as well as the avoidance of any dangerous side effects.