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What is Brown Fat and How Can it Boost Your Health

Person laying down on ice in cozy winter hat and scarf

New research is shedding light on a type of fat found in people that carries with it unique benefits. So-called “brown fat,” as it is known, is different from white fat in that people with brown fat are actually less likely to suffer from serious diseases, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Brown fat is found in newborns, and some adults, and has been found to help burn calories to create heat in cold conditions. While white fat tends to replace brown fat as people get older, it turns out some adults retain the brown fat and its benefits, body scans revealed. 

Related: Eating chili peppers could lead to a longer life.

Of the 52,000 people who were examined, 10 per cent were found to have brown fat. They were less likely to suffer from diseases ranging from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, to coronary artery disease. “These findings make us more confident about the potential of targeting brown fat for therapeutic benefit,” said assistant professor Paul Cohen of The Rockefeller University Hospital. 

Related: Why a good night’s sleep may be good for your heart.

The challenge is in being able to identify brown fat in individuals as the results only show up on PET scans a special type of medical imaging. However, scientists are finding ways to glean related brown fat data from PET scans scheduled for other reasons.  

While it’s not clear what promotes brown fat, researchers are excited at the prospect of investigating this subject in further studies. 


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