Image: Histology Atlas In what was a surprise even to the researchers in this study, at least some adults still have their baby fat, or 'good fat;' clusters of brown fat, previously thought to be present only in babies and children. Brown fat is also found in many animals, particularly in those that hibernate.
Why is brown fat good? Brown fat burns calories; white fat stores them.
The study, conducted by the Joslin Diabetes Center, looked at a database of 1,972 adult patients who underwent PET/CT scans over a three-year period, to see if brown fat deposits were present. Researchers found that 7.5 percent of adult women and 3 percent of adult men studied had brown fat cells, that the cells were more frequently present in the younger members of that group, that those that had brown fat cells were more trim than those who did not appear to have brown fat, and that those with brown fat cells also had the lowest body mass index (BMI) scores.
The data is likely to be under-representative, however, because PET/CT scans "can only detect brown fat cells of a certain size and activity, and could miss smaller and less active deposits," said C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., senior author of the study, which will be reported in the April 9th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
In an early study, Dr. Kahn and others identified a protein, BMP-7, which is known for its role in inducing bone growth, was also responsible for increasing the activity of brown fat in rodents. If researchers can discover how to manipulate the growth and activity of brown fat, that may just result in an effective treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
New England Journal of Medicine via Science Daily
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