Fighting Obesity with Brown Fat

The human body contains small amounts of a calorie-burning tissue called brown fat (brown adipose tissue, BAT) that converts food energy directly into heat. White fat does the opposite— it stores energy. BAT is an important heat-generating tissue that helps animals and humans adapt to the cold. Individual differences in BAT content and activity play important roles in human obesity. A review of literature led by Antonio Giordano from the University of Pavia in Italy concluded that converting abdominal fat to BAT might result in a breakthrough in the obesity epidemic. Increasing brown fat activation helps people expend more calories and burn more fat. The spice capsaicin can increase brown fat activity, which will increase caloric expenditure and promote fat burning. Scientists are actively seeking drugs to turn on brown fat and promote weight loss. (Nature Reviews Drug Discoveries, published online March 11, 2016)

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