According to three published studies, a special kind of fat in your body actually burns calories instead of storing them. Researchers are hoping this may pave the way to attacking obesity with the body’s own fat fighting mechanism.
Biologist once thought that brown fat or adipose tissue disappeared after infancy. It is used to keep young mammals warm in cold conditions. Increasingly research shows that adults retain some of their brown fat as they age to help in temperature regulation.
The brown fat is thought to play a part in whether an adult is lean or overweight.
“This is a tissue whose sole physiological purpose is to expend energy,” said Francesco S. Celi, a metabolism researcher at the National Institutes of Health, talking to the Washington Post.
At the present time, the way to activate brown fat is to stay chilly, at the verge of shivering for prolonged periods of time, which in nature creates a life-saving ability to fight cold in babies and small mammals.
"At the very least, we have identified that there is an entirely new way of approaching the obesity problem," said Aaron Cypess, an author of one of the studies and an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston to the Wall Street Journal.
Three studies from the U.S. and Europe, all published in the New England Journal of Medicine find:
- That drugs could be developed to fire up brown fat to help people burn calories faster, says Dr. Aaron Cypress of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
- That lean people have more brown fat than overweight people and is more active in women than men. Whether the fat causes leanness or results from being lean is unclear.
- Mice who are stimulated to have more brown fat are resistant to weight gain or developing diabetes.
- Test subjects kept in the cold were found to have activated brown fat in 23 out of 24 men. When they were retested without being cold, the brown fat activity was gone.
- Brown fat may be able to burn 20 percent of the energy we use at rest and that can burn off 10 pounds a year.
This better understanding of brown fat is the result of high-tech medical imagining with a PET machine (positron-emission tomography) and CT (computer tomography). Researchers warn that developing a pill to increase brown fat will not substitute for fundamental lifestyle changes of diet and exercise to lose weight. #