Brown Fat Reduces Obesity, Diabetes Risk: Study
By Smitha Nambiar | August 1, 2014 12:00 PM EST
People with increased brown fat or brown adipose tissue, are at a reduced risk of becoming obese and acquiring diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes.
While white fat reduces insulin sensitivity, brown fat, on the other hand, improves blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and fat-burning metabolism. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, brown fat also plays a pivotal role in regulating body temperature. Terming the study as "good news for overweight and obese people," Labros Sidossis, a professor of internal medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said, "This is great news for people with insulin resistance and diabetes, and suggests that brown fat may prove to be an important anti-diabetic tissue."
The United States is the most obese country in the world with 34% of the adult population classified as obese, according to the latest OECD survey.
Through a series of study, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) showed that people with increased levels of brown fat have a higher sensitivity to insulin, better metabolism levels, and better blood sugar control.
In the study conducted by researchers from UTMB, two groups of men were tested on resting energy expenditure, insulin sensitivity and glucose usage. While one group had high levels of brown fat, the other group had low levels. All the participants were placed in mildly cold temperature or normal temperature for eight long hours. Breath and blood samples were then collected to study the outcome.
The researchers checked for hormone changes, insulin concentration, oxygen consumption, glucose levels, and production of carbon dioxide. They also collected tissue samples of white and brown fat to see if there was any difference in cellular energy production and gene expression. It was noticed that brown fat was able to burn calories and boost energy expenditure, as compared to white fat, which did not do so. "We showed that exposure to mild cold raised whole body energy expenditure, increased glucose (blood sugar) removal from the circulation and improved insulin sensitivity in men who have significant amounts of brown fat," said Sidossis. He concluded that the study goes to prove that brown fat can function as an "anti-obesity and anti-diabetic tissue in humans".
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