How does Brown Fat Fight Obesity and Diabetes?
Researcher Dr. Paul Lee Explains how to “Fight Fat with Fat”
If you have been hearing about brown fat (brown adipose tissue) and find the science hard to understand, Dr. Paul Lee of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, has provided this excellent video presentation covering the basics.
Dr. Lee recently presented the ground breaking ICEMAN study on how keeping cool can stimulate brown fat. In his research, subjects were subjected to variations in room temperature in carefully controlled conditions over a period of months. The amount and activity of their brown fat was shown to directly influence the growth or loss of brown fat. In a cool environment, the brown adipose tissue increased and in a warm environment people lost brown adipose tissue. In fact, just one month of sleeping in mild cold temperatures increase brown fat by 30-40%. The plasticity of brown fat with variations in ambient temperature provided more evidence that human health problems of diabetes and obesity may have increased as modern humans have lived in controlled indoor environments.
“The improvement in insulin sensitivity accompanying brown fat gain may open new avenues in the treatment of impaired glucose metabolism in the future. On the other hand, the reduction in mild cold exposure from widespread central heating in contemporary society may impair brown fat function and may be a hidden contributor to obesity and metabolic disorders,” Lee said.
“Studies have been performed in the UK and US measuring bedroom, dining room and lounge room temperatures in people’s homes over the last few decades, and the temperature has climbed from about 19 to 22, a range sufficient to quieten down brown fat.”
“So in addition to unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, it is tempting to speculate that the subtle shift in temperature exposure could be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity.”
The challenge that Dr. Lee sees is that turning down thermostats may not be practical or comfortable. Additional studies will search for the mechanism that triggers brown fat and a drug that can be used to stimulate it.
View the video for his excellent overview of brown fat and why it is important in the battle on obesity and diabetes.