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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Researchers discover a fat-burning hormone—you may already have it, from the Harvard Health Letter

A hormone released by muscles during exercise transforms white fat cells in the body into brown fat cells, reports the June 2012 Harvard Health Letter. The hormone, known as irisin, also appears to help prevent or overcome insulin resistance, a condition that leads to type 2 diabetes.

White fat cells simply store fat. Brown fat cells, in contrast, actually burn fat. And brown fat cells keep burning fat even after you've stopped exercising.

"Irisin travels throughout the body in the blood and alters fat cells," explains Dr. Anthony Komaroff, editor in chief of the Harvard Health Letter. "If your goal is to lose weight, you want to increase the number of brown fat cells and decrease white fat cells."

Babies are born with brown fat, but it was thought to gradually disappear. In 2009, several studies showed that adults still have brown fat cells. Earlier this year, a team led by Dr. Bruce Spiegelman, professor of cell biology and medicine at Harvard Medical School, identified how irisin transforms white fat cells into brown ones in mice, and found that humans have irisin, too. It is very likely, though not proven, that irisin has similar effects in humans as it does in mice.

"Studies like these are just plain interesting, in and of themselves," says Dr. Komaroff, who is also an internist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "They help us to better understand how our bodies work. However, the discovery of irisin also could have some very practical and beneficial applications. Theoretically, irisin could become a treatment to help us maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of diabetes."

Read the full-length article: "Major fat-burning discovery"

The June Harvard Health Letter also shines a light on how to protect yourself from too much sun this summer, with advice on which SPF sunscreen you need and how best to apply it to lower your risk of skin cancer.

Also in this issue:

  • When sex is safe after a heart attack
  • How sweet treats may keep you on your diet
  • How special contact lenses deliver pain relief after eye surgery

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • Major fat-burning discovery
  • Ask the doctor: Analyzing those pesky leg pains
  • Ask the doctor: Pay attention to skin irregularities
  • Overeating may reduce brain function
  • Grieving may trigger heart attack
  • New knee helps your heart
  • Dieting? Have some cake
  • Sex after heart attack
  • Triglycerides may predict stroke
  • Eye surgery and post-op pain
  • Better way to apply sun screen
  • Beta blockers
  • News brief: Flavonoids may help protect against Parkinson's disease
  • News brief: Metal-on-metal hip replacements don't increase cancer
  • News brief: Low blood pressure when standing could signal heart failure
  • News brief: Combination therapy no advantage in Alzheimer's treatment
  • News brief: New study highlights value of colon cancer screenings

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.