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Brown fat burns calories in adult humans

Date:
January 25, 2012
Source:
Journal of Clinical Investigation
Summary:
Brown fat burns calories to generate body heat in rodents and newborn humans. Recently, adult humans have also been found to possess brown fat, leading to the suggestion that increasing the amount of brown fat a person has will make them slimmer. However, it has never been shown definitively that adult human brown fat burns energy. But now, researchers in Canada have provided this evidence.

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.

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One hitch to this idea is it has never actually been shown definitively that brown fat in adult humans can burn energy. Now, a team of researchers -- led by André C. Carpentier, at Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec; and Denis Richard, at Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec -- has provided this evidence, showing that when healthy adult men are exposed to cold their brown fat burns energy to generate body heat. However, it did not burn energy at warm temperatures.

The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

As Barbara Cannon and Jan Nedergaard, at Stockholm University, Sweden, discuss in an accompanying commentary, these data have significant implications for the human obesity epidemic. In particular, they note 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.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Journal of Clinical Investigation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Véronique Ouellet, Sébastien M. Labbé, Denis P. Blondin, Serge Phoenix, Brigitte Guérin, François Haman, Eric E. Turcotte, Denis Richard, André C. Carpentier. Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2012; DOI: 10.1172/JCI60433
  2. Barbara Cannon, Jan Nedergaard. Yes, even human brown fat is on fire!. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2012; DOI: 10.1172/JCI60941

Cite This Page:

Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Brown fat burns calories in adult humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124140313.htm>.
Journal of Clinical Investigation. (2012, January 25). Brown fat burns calories in adult humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124140313.htm
Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Brown fat burns calories in adult humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124140313.htm (accessed April 2, 2015).

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