Thursday, April 09, 2009

What Can Brown Do for You?

Brown fat, that is:
For more than 30 years, scientists have been intrigued by brown fat, a cell that acts like a furnace, consuming calories and generating heat.
papers, appearing Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, indicate that nearly every adult has little blobs of brown fat that can burn huge numbers of calories when activated by the cold, as when sitting in a chilly room that is between 61 and 66 degrees.
The fat really is brown, researchers say, because it is filled with mitochondria, the tiny energy factories of cells. Mitochondria contain iron, giving the tissue a reddish brown color.

The hope is that scientists may find safe ways to turn on peoples’ brown fat, allowing them to lose weight by burning more calories. But researchers caution that while mice lose weight if they activate brown fat, it is not clear that people would shed pounds — they might unwittingly eat more, for example. The data on global patterns of obesity are not good enough to say whether living in a cold climate makes people thinner.
My non-scientific observation, living in the frozen Northeast, is that it does not.

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