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Brown fat burns calories in adult humans during cold

Updated: Jan 25, 2012, 12:43 PM IST

Washington: Brown fat burns energy to generate body heat in healthy adults during cold conditions, a new study has revealed.

The team of researchers — led by Andre C. Carpentier, at Universite de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec; and Denis Richard, at Universite Laval, Quebec City, Quebec —also showed that brown fat does not burn energy at warm temperatures.

Brown adipose tissue (often known as brown fat) is a specialized tissue that burns calories to generate body heat in rodents and newborn humans, neither of which shiver.

Recently, adult humans have also been found to possess brown fat. This fact piqued the interest of researchers seeking to combat the obesity epidemic, the thought being that if they could develop ways to increase the amount of brown fat a person has that person will become slimmer.

One hitch to this idea is it has never actually been shown definitively that brown fat in adult humans can burn energy.

According to Barbara Cannon and Jan Nedergaard, at Stockholm University, Sweden, these data have significant implications for the human obesity epidemic.

In particular, they noted that the data generated by Carpentier, Richard, and colleagues indicates that developing ways to increase the amount of brown fat a person has is unlikely to make that person slimmer, what is needed is a way to make sure that the brown fat is active and burns calories.