Study Creates Detailed Map of Brown Adipose Tissue Deposits
More accurate research on importance of brown fat activation now possible.
Many studies have shown that increasing the activity of brown fat or BAT in humans will burn calories for weight loss and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin improving health for those with diabetes. The exact location and size of BAT deposits has been hard to measure. “Normal” BAT locations and volume has not been precisely studied.
Brown fat is an important area of research for the treatment of obesity and diabetes now that research has shown that it burns calories after exposure to cold. Glucose is used up by brown fat to maintain internal body temperature instead of becoming stored as white belly fat for future use. Because BAT cells are distributed or mixed-in with white fat cells, muscle, and blood vessels, it has proven very difficult to get accurate measurements.
In the published study “Mapping of human brown adipose tissue in lean and obese young men,”1) scientist have refined the method of using PET/CT imaging for locating brown fat in humans and estimating its ability to burn calories. People in the study were exposed to cold in a room for 5 hours a day. On the last day before measurement they were kept at the lowest temperature they could tolerate before shivering: around 16 degrees centigrade.1) What researchers did was identify 6 areas of importance in the body where brown adipose tissue is located. They also were able to measure the metabolic capacity of the brown fat in those areas to better understand its role and importance.
The key BAT discovery? We have much more brown fat in our bodies than we thought. Most people never use this belly fat burning tissue to its full potential. How much calorie burn could be gained? An estimate is that brown fat cold exposure would increase daily calorie burn by greater than 520 calories. The authors conclude “…that if BAT could be maximized to its volumetric and metabolic capacity, it would substantially affect energy metabolism in adult humans.”1)
How do you increase your BAT activity for your health? Increasing cold exposure and getting outside are at the top of the list. Cold exposure using a cooling vest for brown fat is the simplest way to stimulate your brown adipose tissue, and liquid cooling suits have been used in many studies as well as cold rooms.
Your thoughts and comments are welcome. Would you let us know what you think?
1)Shivering, which is uncomfortable, also is a different way the body tries to stay warm. “Non-shivering thermogenesis” is the role BAT plays in keeping us warm. Cool burn or coolsculpting methods literally freeze the tissue, do not focus on brown fat activation for long term metabolic health, and can be dangerous.
1)PNAS, August 8, 2017, vol. 114, no. 32, p 8653
1)PNAS, August 8, 2017, vol. 114, no. 32, pp. 8649-8654 with full text of this brown fat study available for free online.