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Mechanism identified: Freezing helps reduce cholesterol
According to health experts, about one in three in Germany suffers from high cholesterol levels. As a rule, those affected are initially recommended to change their diet. As researchers have now found, cold weather can obviously help them too.
High cholesterol threatens dangerous diseases
Around one in three Germans have high cholesterol. A common consequence of an elevated cholesterol level is hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). Cholesterol levels that are too high are a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. To reduce cholesterol, we usually recommend a change in diet to those affected. If that is not enough, cholesterol-lowering drugs are often prescribed. Scientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) are now reporting that cold can also help.
Cold is said to promote obesity
A few years ago, US researchers reported on a study that showed that the human intestinal flora in the north is different from that in the south.
As a result, the locals would be more prone to obesity in colder regions than in warmer regions.
Cold is not only supposed to promote obesity, but also indirectly to ensure that more cholesterol is absorbed.
More and more fat-rich food at low temperatures
After all, when the temperature drops, people have a greater appetite and consequently consume more, and usually also higher-fat, food. In this way, the body is supplied with sufficient energy, which is necessary for maintaining the body temperature.
Fat-rich food also contains a lot of cholesterol, which the body does not use to generate energy and can damage cells in excess.
Scientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the Collaborative Research Center 841 "Liver Inflammation" (SFB 841) located there have now identified a mechanism in the liver through which the organism can efficiently break down excess cholesterol in bile acids and thus render them harmless.
The study was published in the journal "Nature Medicine". The research results are also explained in a video interview.
Increased heat production in the brown adipose tissue
"We have known for a long time that low temperatures lead to increased heat production in the so-called brown adipose tissue," said study leader Prof. Jörg Heeren, deputy director of the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology at the UKE in a statement.
"Because this process requires a lot of energy, cold can be used as a treatment option for treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes or inflammatory fatty liver."
According to the information, the researchers were able to demonstrate for the first time how the activation of brown adipose tissue stimulates the liver to break down cholesterol into bile acids.
"Interestingly, this happens through a previously poorly characterized metabolic pathway, which - in contrast to the known cholesterol degradation pathway - is not switched off via bile acids," explained the expert.
"In this way, the body can constantly excrete excess cholesterol in the form of bile acids even under the influence of cold and the associated increased food intake," says Heeren.
The activation of the brown adipose tissue leads overall to a healthier metabolic state. The increased production of bile acids in turn increases heat production and thus increases energy consumption.
The bile acids also affect the composition of the bacteria in the intestine. "The influence of bile acids on the microbiome is of great interest because we know that intestinal bacteria can influence the progress of inflammatory liver diseases, for example," said the study leader.
"By discovering the alternative metabolic pathway in the liver and regulating it via the brown adipose tissue, we hope to be able to develop therapeutic approaches in the future, especially for the treatment of chronic inflammatory liver diseases," said Heeren. (ad)