Irisin Hormone Found to Increase Fat Burning Cells

How Exercise Releases More than Endorphins

According to recent research, irisin hormone naturally found in our muscle cells is indicated to stimulate fat burning through exercise. This positive finding has stimulated chronic studies for irisin having "great therapeutic potential in diabetes and perhaps also therapy for obesity.”

Irisin hormone is shown to increase energy and metabolism in conjunction with exercise. There is more than endorphins being released during workouts and it appears our fat burning is getting a boost. 

Irisin is Released During Exercise

Young woman in high intensity fitness session.
Irisin Hormone is Released During Exercise. Tempura / Getty Images

Irisin hormone is also known as a protein or peptide and first discovered in skeletal muscle. Research indicates “exercising muscle produces a hormone called irisin.” It functions by traveling through the blood altering fat cells in our body. We have learned how the body uses fat stores and glucose (sugar) for energy during exercise but that is only one chemical component. Body fat is stored inside fat cells as available energy. Most of these fat cells are called white fat cells, and their function is to store fat.

We understand fat stores come from consuming more calories (energy) than we can burn daily. Additional energy (fat) is collected within the white fat cells and what we desperately try to shed through hours of exercise. During research, it was discovered humans also have brown fat cells which do not store but burn fat. The function of irisin is the ability to convert white fat cells to brown fat cells. This would mean a reduction in white fat stores and an increase in powerful fat burning brown fat cells. This amazing hormone discovery has stimulated further research to uncover conclusive evidence of the findings.

Irisin Research is Ongoing

Man Measuring Waist
Irisin Converts Fat Storing Cells to Fat Burning Cells. David Harrigan / Getty Images

Irisin research claims are promising for improved fat loss in the human body. If science could figure out how to bottle irisin with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, that would really be newsworthy. As with all research, positive preliminary findings stimulate further clinical studies. 

Because obesity and diabetes are epidemic, science is not wasting time to reveal definitive answers on the role of irisin and possible health benefits. According to an article published in the Peptide Journal, irisin is a fat-burning protein indicated to regulate metabolic energy. It is also shown to enhance energy by converting white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue. The International Journal of Endocrinology published findings stating irisin levels are directly influenced by energy expenditure or exercise and fat mass as the primary contributor. 

Other studies are being more conservative with findings. According to research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, there appears to be discrenpancies although a 10-week endurance exercise study did show increased plasma irisin levels. Exercise was said to have a possible effect on irisin levels depending on physiological conditions.

Although irisin hormone research findings are very promising, further studies to clarify and provide further evidence of claims is necessary. In order for irisin to potentially be used as an effective drug target in human disease, expanded research is required to disprove controversial feedback. Fresh evidence was released and published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism indicating data strongly demonstrated "human irisin exists, circulates, and is regulated by exercise.” 

Until more evidence to support irisin hormone claims are reported, we need to rely on what has already been proven: consisent exercise and eating healthy maintains a healthy weight and fat percentage. 

More on Irisin Hormone

Irisin research remains an exiciting medical human interest story.  Imagine the possibilities and overall impact irisin hormone could have on helping those suffering from obesity, diabetes or metabolic syndrome. While science desperately studies this fat loss miracle, it will be important for us to continue with what we know as true for fat burning…exercise!


American Journal of Human Biology, Abstract, Longitudinal variation of circulating irisin after an energy restriction-induced weight loss and following weight regain in obese men and women, Ana B. Crujeiras et al., 12/5/13

Harvard Healthy Publications, Harvard Medical School, Major fat-burning discovery, Harvard Health Letter, 6/12

International Weekly Journal of Science, Abstract, A PGC1-α-dependent myokine that drives brown-fat-like development of white fat and thermogenesis, Pontus Boström et al., 12/11/12

Journal of Hepatology, Irisin is inversely associated with intrahepatic triglyceride contents in obese adults, Hui-Jie Zhang et al., 5/10/13

Metabolism, Clinical and Experimental, Abstract, Irisin levels correlate with energy expenditure in a subgroup of humans with energy expenditure greater than predicted by fat free mass, Andrew G. Swick et al., 4/10/13

Continue Reading