The relationship between lean muscle mass and body fat is a complex one, and while it is true to say fat cells cannot simply be converted to new muscle, it’s also important to recognize that skeletal muscle mass does utilize fat as an important source of fuel.
Now, new research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and carried out by University Hospitals (UH) Cleveland Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers have identified two ways in which healthy muscles can better control the process of fat metabolism.
Scientists investigated the role of a gene known as KLF-15 (Kruppel-like factor 15) by taking a mouse and removing the gene from its muscle. This genetic change-up resulted in a number of adverse reactions, including obesity and glucose intolerance. They also found that deleting KLF-15 created a propensity for the mice to develop insulin resistance, and even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
On further investigation, the research found KLF-15 to be essential for controlling fat uptake and utilization by the muscles. When KLF-15 is not present, fats are unable to enter the muscle and are rerouted to the liver, and to white adipose tissue instead.
If you are wondering how you might increase your own levels of KLF-15, the answer is as straight forward as being more active.
“We knew from prior work by our team that the role of KLF-15 was critical for muscle health, because levels are increased in humans following exercise,” explained Dr. Mukesh. K. Jain, a professor of medicine and chief scientific officer who was the senior author of the report. “Experimentally, muscle loss of KLF-15 led to a reduction in exercise capacity in mice. The fact that KLF-15 is also important in metabolic health is really exciting as it provides a potential molecular link between exercise and overall health.”
Secondly, the report outlined that a diet rich in SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids), like those found in high-fiber foods, vegetables, beans and fruits, improved blood sugar regulation, thus suggesting that SCFAs play an important role in weight management as well.
Collectively, these findings show that we can maximize our bodies’ ability to metabolize more fat through regular physical exercise, and by eating more greens.