Researchers discover that brown fat protects against diabetes and obesity in humans

July 23, 2014

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have shown for the first time that people with higher levels of brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, in their bodies have better blood sugar control, higher insulin sensitivity and a better metabolism for burning fat stores.

Their findings suggest that, because of the brown fat's ability to better regulate , this could be a potential medical weapon against diabetes.

"We showed that exposure to mild cold raised whole body , increased glucose removal from the circulation and improved in men who have significant amounts of brown adipose tissue depots," stated UTMB's Labros Sidossis, professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine. "These results support the notion that brown may function as an anti-obesity and anti-diabetic tissue in humans."

People have two types of fat tissue in their bodies: the widely reviled white fat tissue and the less familiar brown fat tissue. One of the many ill health effects of excess white fat tissue is decreased insulin sensitivity, which is a major contributor to diabetes. On the other hand, brown fat has several healthy qualities, including protection against obesity and diabetes.

In their new study appearing in the journal Diabetes, Sidossis and his colleagues compared otherwise similar healthy men with either high or low levels of brown fat tissue on their resting energy expenditure, glucose usage and insulin sensitivity. These men were placed in either normal temperature conditions or were exposed to mildly cold temperatures for five to eight hours.

Throughout the cold or regular temperature exposure period, the team conducted comprehensive analyses of various bodily samples. They collected blood and breath samples to observe changes in glucose and insulin concentrations, hormone changes, whole body oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production rates. They also aspirated brown and white fat tissue samples to analyze differences in cellular energy production and gene expression.

"In this study we show that, when activated via mild cold exposure, can increase energy expenditure and burn calories. This is good news for overweight and obese people," stated Sidossis. "Of even greater clinical significance may be the finding that brown fat can help the body regulate blood sugar more effectively. 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."

Explore further: Cold exposure stimulates beneficial brown fat growth

Related Stories

Cold exposure stimulates beneficial brown fat growth

June 23, 2014
Long-term mild cold exposure can stimulate brown fat growth and activity in humans and may benefit glucose and energy metabolism, a new study finds. The results were presented in a poster Sunday, June 22 at ICE/ENDO 2014, ...

The ICEMAN study: How keeping cool could spur metabolic benefits

June 22, 2014
A new study being presented today at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago, demonstrates that ambient temperatures can influence the growth or ...

New source of fat tissue stem cells discovered

May 9, 2014
Researchers have found a new source of stem cells that produce fat tissue, findings presented today at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Wrocław, Poland, show. This unique in vitro human stem cell model of brown ...

Scientists identify process that affects fat distribution and metabolic syndrome

July 2, 2014
Building upon their earlier research on the biology of fat metabolism, Joslin scientists discovered that microRNAs –small RNA molecules that play important roles in regulation in many types of tissue – play a major role ...

Newly discovered human fat cell opens up new opportunities for future treatment of obesity

May 2, 2013
The body's brown fat cells play a key role in the development of obesity and diabetes. Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now discovered that we humans have two different kinds of brown ...

Team finds on-off switch to burning stored fat

June 5, 2014
Scientists this week reported that a molecular pathway called mTORC1 controls the conversion of unhealthy white fat into beige fat, an appealing target for increasing energy expenditure and reducing obesity. The team, led ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find RNA with special role in nerve healing process

August 22, 2017
Scientists may have identified a new opening to intervene in the process of healing peripheral nerve damage with the discovery that an "anti-sense" RNA (AS-RNA) is expressed when nerves are injured. Their experiments in mice ...

Mouse model of human immune system inadequate for stem cell studies

August 22, 2017
A type of mouse widely used to assess how the human immune system responds to transplanted stem cells does not reflect what is likely to occur in patients, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School ...

Researchers offer new targets for drugs against fatty liver disease and liver cancer

August 22, 2017
There may no silver bullet for treating liver cancer or fatty liver disease, but knowing the right targets will help scientists develop the most effective treatments. Researchers in Sweden have just identified a number of ...

Make way for hemoglobin

August 18, 2017
Every cell in the body, whether skin or muscle or brain, starts out as a generic cell that acquires its unique characteristics after undergoing a process of specialization. Nowhere is this process more dramatic than it is ...

Bio-inspired materials give boost to regenerative medicine

August 18, 2017
What if one day, we could teach our bodies to self-heal like a lizard's tail, and make severe injury or disease no more threatening than a paper cut?

Are stem cells the link between bacteria and cancer?

August 17, 2017
Gastric carcinoma is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths, primarily because most patients present at an advanced stage of the disease. The main cause of this cancer is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.