Category Archives: Brown Fat Research

6 Brown Fat Cell Areas In your Body: Key for Brown Fat Diabetes and Obesity Therapies

Study Creates Detailed Map of Brown Adipose Tissue Deposits

More accurate research on importance of brown fat activation now possible.

Cool Fat Burner

6 Brown Adipose Tissue Depots

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

Weight loss and diabetes prevention: brown fat cooling research

Cold for Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention

Washington Post Interviews Leading Brown Fat Researchers

cool fat burner weight loss

Cold temperatures and weight los

The energy burning furnace that keeps our body warm when exposed to cold, brown fat or brown adipose tissue, has been increasingly studied for its role in metabolism for weight loss and diabetes prevention. Mouse studies show active brown fat has a role in preventing obesity.  That knowledge has increased investigation of brown fat’s role in weight loss and diabetes prevention in people.After the discovery by science around 2009 that brown fat is present in adults, researchers were curious to learn why brown adipose tissue was active in some people but not in others. The adults with brown fat were generally leaner and had healthier blood sugar levels. 

Not only did adults have brown fat that could be stimulated by exposure to mild cold conditions, other studies revealed another “healthy fat” – beige fat. It was discovered that cold exposure could actually change our bad belly fat, white adipose tissue, into a beige adipose tissue. Beige fat also burns off excess energy and seems to have a role in weight loss and diabetes prevention.1)

Paul Lee, a research scientist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, leads a Brown Fat Physiology Group. His 2014 “ICEMAN study” proved that there is a link between ambient temperatures and the gain or loss of brown fat in adults. it only required a mild cold of 19 degrees celsius in a room overnight for a few months to grown brown fat, burn more calories which can lead to weight loss, and stimulated insulin sensitivity requiring less insulin after eating to bring blood sugar levels down. An easy inference to draw is that the indoor controlled environments people have been living in has had a role in the increase seen in obesity and diabetes. 

In the Washington Post interview, Dr. Lee said that there is no current evidence that shivering is a method to achieve weight loss and diabetes prevention. Brown fat research has been focused on the mild cold exposure that triggers brown adipose tissue’s use of glucose to produce internal body heat. Shivering is a different metabolic response.

Dr. Aaron Cypess, National Institute of Health researcher, has conducted studies that show clear evidence that stimulating the growth and activity of brown fat can have a beneficial role in preventing weight gain, obesity and diabetes. He does not recommend shivering as a way of losing weight however. Shivering is a response to colder temperatures, below 19 degrees celsius, that is both extremely uncomfortable and a stress on the body that could cause damage. Because of those problems, the body is designed to turn on the brown fat furnace and turn white fat to beige fat in mild cold environments. 

The bottom line remains the same. No cool fat burner promising weight loss from shivering or mild cold brown fat cooling vest alone is going to be a magic solution for weight loss and diabetes prevention. Controlling food intake and exercising will remain the fundamental factors for better health. However, the modern human controlled temperature environment may be a key factor in the massive growth of obesity and diabetes, so new ways to restore a healthy mild cold exposure should be very beneficial.

1) There are several types of body fat according to a recent Women’s Health Magazine article about body fat types and weight loss.

“Toxic Fat” “Good Fat” and Diabetes: Ceramides role in Metabolic Disease

How good fat and toxic fat play a role in diabetes

Why do thin fit people as well as obese people become diabetic?

good fat, brown fat cooling vest

Thin fit people and diabetes

Much research has been discovering how good fat, brown adipose tissue, might play a key role in treating diabetes. Activating brown fat with a cooling vest, drugs or stem cells are all being studied. While the role of this “good fat” is becoming known, the basic causes of diabetes are still elusive. Even very fit and lean individuals can have diabetes so exercise and diet are not the only factor.

A common link link between type I and type 2 diabetes is being pursued in research about the role increased levels of a “toxic fat”,  ceramides, plays in metabolic disease. A researcher who’s family had a history of diabetes, Scott summers, has been on a quest to discover the common root of diabetes ever since witnessing his adult father, an avid daily runner, begin needing to take daily insulin injections after being diagnosed with the disease in his 40’s.1)

Research into the question of why both lean and obese individuals can become diabetic has led to a prime suspect: Ceramides, a waxy lipid that has been called “toxic fat.” A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism looked at how toxic fat interferes with normal function of brown fat. This could be a root cause involved in a number of metabolic diseases that involve adipose tissue: white fat, brown fat and beige fat. The toxic fat appears to be causing interference in the body’s internal communication system that can sense the energy or nutritional status of the body. Normally excess glucose can be used up by active beige fat or brown fat cells, but the toxic fat, ceramides, interferes with the process. 

Brown adipose tissue is jam packed with mitochondria cells that are iron rich (“brown fat”). These cells burn off energy that otherwise is stored in bad, white fat, tissue. While much focus has been on cooling the body with a cooling vest for weight loss or finding a drug to activate brown fat, understanding and stopping toxic fat looks like a promising path to curing diabetes. 


1) Hamblin, James: The Scientist Harnessing ‘Toxic Fat,’ The Atlantic, March 15, 201

Brown Fat Cooling Vest to Treat Childhood Obesity: Door Opens to Research

Research Opens Door to Study of Brown Fat Cooling Vest in Children

brown fat cooling vest

Childhood Obesity Crisis

As you can see in the above graph, Childhood obesity is perhaps the greatest health crisis facing the United States and the world. Recently published research which included the use of a brown fat cooling vest to activate brown adipose tissue, showed that less expensive, non-invasive readings of skin and core temperature may be used to study the effect mild cold exposure has on brown fat activity which could lead to the study of brown fat cooling for childhood obesity.1)1 To date measurement has involved radiation exposure using an MRI or PET scan, which would rule out studies involving children even though safe mild cold exposure using a cooling vest is a potentially safe, non-pharmaceutical treatment for childhood obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Brown adipose tissue (brown fat or BAT) has always played an important role in maintaining a steady state body temperature in mammals and has been newly discovered to have a role in people. Because BAT studies have shown the potential path towards new treatments for obesity and related metabolic disease like diabetes, new ways to research human BAT activity that are less expensive and invasive can lead to breakthroughs for our health. The most exciting opportunity is to open the door to studying the impact of mild cold exposure using a brown fat cooling vest for children that is safe, effective, and simple to use at an affordable cost.

Study Method Included Brown Fat Cooling Vest for Mild Cold

A trial was conducted that included 18 men who were divided into two groups. Using known PET and MRI methods of measurement, but adding measurements of skin temperature and body core temperature, the groups were 10 who already had pronounced BAT activity and 8 who had little to no BAT activity. Exposing these volunteers to mild cold using a combination of room temperature controls, liquid cooling vests and blankets, allowed the scientist to determine if skin and core temperature measurements could be used instead of PET and MRI methods.

Results of the study provided further proof that mild cold exposure triggers a response in brown fat in humans to maintain core body temperature just like any mammal. There was a strong correlation between the volume of brown fat in person and response to cold. Most significant was the finding that “…the significant correlation between the cold induced change in core and supraclavicular [skin temperature at the collar bone] temperature suggest those two measures as a potential [measure] of BAT activity.”

These safer, non-invasive, non-radiation, easier to perform and less expensive measurements of brown fat can open the door to the study of the effectiveness of treatments for obesity include the safe use of mild cooling with a brown fat cooling vest for children. This would provide an option in the near term to help fight the childhood obesity epidemic.


2) Chondronikola M, Volpi E, Børsheim E, Chao T, Porter C, Annamalai P, Yfanti C, Labbe SM, Hurren NM, Malagaris I, Cesani F and Sidossis LS (2016) Brown Adipose Tissue Is Linked to a Distinct Thermoregulatory Response to Mild Cold in People. Front. Physiol. 7:129. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00129

References   [ + ]

1. 1

Brown Fat Diabetes Cooling Research: Major Positive Glucose Uptake Boost

Brown Fat Diabetes Cooling Study of Cold Acclimation Shows Profound Increase in Insulin Sensitivity in Only 10 Days

Brown Fat Diabetes

Before and After Glucose Uptake Results Cold Acclimation of BAT. Copyright Nature

A recent study of brown fat diabetes evaluating the promise of cooling as a therapy for people with type 2 diabetes published on added to mounting evidence of major benefits. People with type 2 diabetes participating in the study of brown fat cooling showed better improvement in their insulin sensitivity than seen in the currently most recommended therapy of long term exercise for diabetes. “Insulin sensitivity was markedly increased after cold acclimation as indicated by on average a 43% increase in the glucose infusion rate….”

After just 10 days of cold acclimation people in the study with type 2 diabetes showed very significant positive impact on both whole-body and skeletal muscle sensitivity to insulin. As a result glucose uptake is markedly improved leading the researchers to conclude that brown fat cooling is a valid new way to improve the metabolic health of people with diabetes.

The method of cold acclimation to study the area of brown fat diabetes cooling therapy was remarkably simple and short. Eight overweight males were included in the study which originally was intended to include eleven to obtain valid results. During the study of the initial eight subjects the results on insulin sensitivity from cold acclimation of brown adipose tissue (brown fat) were so significant that the study was shortened with the approval of an external research monitoring board. During the ten day cold acclimation test, the study subjects were in a room kept at 14-15 degrees centigrade with exposure times increased starting with 2 hours on day 1, 4 hours on day 2, and 6 hours on days 3-10. Patients in the study used their normal medications for type 2 diabetes, ate standardized meals at the same time and were told not to exercise.

Exciting opportunities for brown fat diabetes cooling therapies are opened up by this key study, with a cooling vest for brown fat weight loss and diabetes treatment being one that is convenient. The combination of both brown fat cooling and exercise for diabetes treatment is another exciting concept: one that Dr. George King, head of research at Joslin Diabetes Center is already exploring at the Harvard Medical School institution’s headquarters where a “Joslin Coolout” workout in a cool room has started.

That Doughnut is Killing your Brown Fat

Killing your Brown Fat

New Brown Fat Research links Obesity Diet to Brown Adipose Tissue Damage


brown fat weight loss

Diets High in Fat and Sugar Destroy Brown Fat

Brown fat and its related beneficial beige fat have only recently been shown to be important to adult humans. Now researchers have found that feeding an obesity diet chow to mice that is high in sugar and fat damages brown fat. Killing your brown fat with that doughnut is not a good idea. Your brown fat is jam-packed with vascular tissue, blood vessels, and mitochondria, the body’s energy burning factory. Known vascular health risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and lack of exercise are damaging to brown fat and the critical role it has in metabolism and health.

Studies have analyzed the “browning” of WAT as a strategy for combating obesity (54–56). However, it has been argued that these actions are quantitatively incapable of significantly affecting systemic metabolism due to the low thermogenic capacity of WAT browning relative to that exhibited by classical BAT depots (57). Comparatively little attention has been given to the mechanisms that contribute to BAT dysfunction and how they affect overall metabolic health. As shown here, the status of the vasculature in BAT is critical for its function both in terms of thermogenesis and systemic metabolic homeostasis. Thus, risk factors that are associated with diminished vascular health, such as hypertension, hyper-cholesterolemia, and physical inactivity, could contribute to the development of obesity through the degradation of BAT function. Shimizu, J Clin Invest. 2014; 124(5):2099–2112 doi:10.1172/JCI71643

The positive benefits of brown fat burning off excess sugar to produce body heat is reversed. Your brown and beige fat becomes white fat and insulin levels are increased.  This part of the growing evidence about the importance of brown fat to your health. Brown fat is not just burning off excess calories in the process of non-shivering thermogenesis (maintaining you internal body temperature in mild cold conditions – not cold enough to trigger the shiver response). Brown fat also plays a fundamental role in whole body metabolism. We know that we lose brown fat as we age and as we become overweight and obese. We are just starting to find out how it functions so that we can stimulate brown adipose tissue activity for weight loss and prevention or treatment of metabolic diseases like diabetes.


Brown Fat Cold Exposure

 Brown Fat Cold Exposure : ICEMAN Study Presented

Room temperatures proven to influence brown fat growth or loss

brown fat cold exposure

Brown Fat Activated by Cold

Today an exciting new study of the effect of room temperatures on brown fat cold exposure was  presented in Chicago at a meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology.

“Our research points to a simple and practical brown fat activating and growing strategy in humans through temperature exposure modulation. We show that long-term minimal manipulation of overnight ambient temperature — well within the range found in climate-controlled buildings — was able to modulate brown fat activity in humans. Mild cold exposure stimulated brown fat activity while mild warm exposure suppressed it. Brown fat increase was accompanied by improvement in insulin sensitivity and energy burning rate after food,” said Paul Lee, MD, PhD, former research fellow at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Brown fat cold exposure with even small changes in room temperatures over the long term will have a beneficial health affect. Temperature changes directly effect the amount of brown fat and the activity of brown fat, which in turn has an important benefit on energy expenditure and metabolism in people. The study concluded that brown fat could be harnessed by simple ambient temperature adjustments making cooling an effective tool to combat obesity, diabetes and related disorders.

The flaw with this and other papers about brown fat cold exposure is that they ignore the practical limitations of people adjusting their thermostats down to sixty degrees. In northern climates during the cold months, this may be possible. But turning your air conditioning down in a home or business to the sixties is unaffordable and not very “green.” The solution may be in portable cooling. Brown fat activation with a cooling vest for weight loss and treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases will be a much more practical method, and has already been shown to work. 

Sleep Disorders and Weight Gain

Sleep disorders and weight gain, brown fat, sleep, obesity

Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain

Brown Fat Activity, Sleep Disorders and Weight Gain

Brown adipose tissue at the intersection of sleep and temperature regulation

Lack of sleep is “a public health epidemic” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. Sleep disorders and weight gain go hand-in-hand and play a role in our obesity epidemic too. CDC data shows that 28% of U.S. adults are sleeping less than six hours a night and that is well below the recommended seven to nine hours.

The foundation of health and wellness is based on three factors of good nutrition, exercise and normal sleep. All three health factors are related: if you are tired it is hard to exercise, eat healthy and lose weight. But getting enough sleep is very difficult. Around 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from one of over 70 sleep disorders. Sleep is a critical part of human biology and metabolism.

With the recent discovery of the importance of brown fat (brown adipose tissue) in humans and the role it plays in our metabolism, it is not surprising that researchers are now looking at how increasing brown fat and beige fat activity could help with sleep disorders and weight gain. Researchers at Washington State University, Levente Kapas and Eva Szentirmai, recently published a paper titled: “Brown adipose tissue at the intersection of sleep and temperature regulation.” In their article they propose that impaired function of brown fat could be basic cause of poor sleep as well as metabolic disorders. Many years of study have shown the relationship between sleep, metabolism and thermoregulation (maintenance of body temperature). Their evidence shows that activated brown fat triggers sleep-promoting signals required for healthy sleep after periods of being awake. Sleep deprivation is commonly tied to obesity in people. Since the researchers found that brown fat activation leads to good sleep, and it is now known that brown fat plays a role in burning calories, they believe a lack of brown fat is a common thread linking obesity and poor sleep in humans.

The importance of brown adipose tissue continues to be uncovered and its importance to sleep disorders and weight gain and obesity is another exciting area to follow. Activation of brown fat in a safe and effective way will lead to improvements in health.

Sleep disorders

Obesity Risk Increases with Less Sleep



Role Brown Fat in Humans Workshop

Report on: Exploring the Role Brown Fat in Humans

role brown fat

NIH Brown Fat Conference

February 25 – 26, 2014 Hosted by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

“A workshop focused on elucidating the roles of recently described brown and beige fat or brite fat in people. Speakers will describe state-of-the-art technology for monitoring human brown adipose tissue (hBAT) mass and function, and present recent basic and clinical data.” – Agenda

An important new workshop in February 2014 brought together many leading human brown adipose (hBAT) researchers to exchange information and discuss the role of brown fat in humans. Organized by Aaron Cypess, Joslin Diabetes Center – Harvard University, Carol Haft, NIDDK, Houchun Harry Hu, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Maren Laughlin, NIDDK, the goal of the meeting was to review important state-of-the-art technology to measure and monitor brown fat, and present the latest information on clinical studies of brown fat.

Only six years have passed since scientists published the discovery that active brown adipose tissue existed in adult humans. Data from PET scans showing a “new” organ convinced the scientific community that brown fat was something exciting to be studies. But the role brown fat     in humans plays is uncertain. Many efforts are underway to look at how much brown fat and beige fat people have and what will increase brown fat. Even when science understands how much brown fat humans have and how we can create more brown fat, it is useless if we do not know how to activate it to trigger its ability to fight obesity.

The conference agenda on the role brown fat role in humans covered important developments in:

  • The function and importance of brown adipose tissue
  • Measurement of human brown fat activity with MRI  (going beyond the limits of PET scans)
  • Brown fat and beige fat in human metabolism
  • Targeting brown fat for therapies for human health
  • Future directions of human brown adipose tissue research

The most interesting information from the workshop is found in the “posters” or brief summaries of current studies on the role brown fat in humans. There were 47 posters presented and over a dozen were called out as “hot topics” for additional discussion.

Here are some highlights from the posters presented that show the exciting and broad areas where brown fat activation shows promise in improving health:

  1.  Szentirmai, Eva, Brown Adipose Tissue and Sleep Regulation.
  2. Akimov, E.B., Brown Adipose Tissue and Aerobic Performance of Athletes.
  3. Blondin, Denis, Acute Cold Exposure Elicits Increases in BAT Oxidative Metabolism in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.
  4. Broeders, Evie PM, Brown Adipose Tissue Activity and Thyroid Hormone in Adult Humans.
  5. Chondronikola, Maria, Brown Adipose Tissue Improves Glucose Metabolism and Whole Body Insulin Sensitivity in Humans.
  6. Cypess, Aaron M., Mild Intermittent Cooling of Mice is Sufficient to Increase the Thermogenic Capacity of the Adipose Tissue Deposits.

Check back regularly as we provide a summary of each of the above posters in the role of brown fat in humans.