brown fat

How now, brown fat? scientist are onto a new way to lose weight

When it comes to fat, what difference does color make? A lot, it seems, especially if you’re interested in losing it. For years now, scientists have been studying so-called brown fat, a type of heat-generating fat that burns energy rather than storing it.

It’s abundant in rodents, which can’t shiver to warm up. Human newborns also have it, to keep warm. By adulthood, however, humans have lost most of their brown fat stores — initially, researchers thought adults didn’t have any brown fat at all — but recent studies have found that adults retain small pockets of it in certain places, such as the upper back and side of the neck.

The question is, can brown fat actually burn calories and aid in weight loss? A new study led by Andre Carpentier at the University Hospital of Sherbrooke in Canada suggests it can.

Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the scientists found that they were able to activate brown fat in adult men by exposing them to cold. Even more promising, they discovered that brown fat gobbles up white fat, the kind that accumulates in love handles and that most of us have too much of. At rest, the study found, the men burned more calories when they were cold — about 250 calories in three hours.

Knowing that chilling the body triggers brown fat to mobilise could lead to an entirely new strategy for weight loss, the researchers suggested. Treatments could focus on activating brown fat without having to keep people in the cold.

Brown fat gets its name from its darker color (compared to white fat), which is due to the mitochondria packed inside its cells. Mitochondria are the body’s energy factories, turning glucose from the food we eat into the energy that cells need to perform their functions…. Read the full story here

Picture caption: Human multilocular or brown fat, a special type adipose connective tissue concerned with heat production that is found in human infants and mammals that hibernate.