In our bodies we have two types of fat, brown and white. White is the common, energy-storing fat. Brown fat, previously thought to be found mainly in babies, burns energy to create heat. More recently brown fat has been discovered in a small percentage of adults, as well. Brown fat is essential for burning energy, creating heat, and burning the white fat in our bodies. In other words, we need brown fat to get leaner.
So how do we create this useful fat? Two recent studies found completely different ways to stimulate its growth in the human body.
It was previously understood that growth of brown fat could be induced in adults through exposure to cold. A new study, published in Cell Metabolism, found an increase in social interaction also led white fat to be transformed into brown fat, resulting in an overall fat loss.
The study was conducted on mice who were first living comfortably with unlimited food and water, but no activities in their solitary cages. They were then placed in a more complex living environment, with up to 20 other mice and equipment for physical activity. The degree of fat loss experienced by these mice was profound. Researchers traced this fat loss to an increase in their brown fat.
On a molecular level, a study done by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center uncovered two previously unknown pathways to brown fat. Knowing how the body stops or starts growth of brown fat on a molecular level enables scientists to then manipulate this process in the body. The goal, for researchers, is to develop treatments for obesity and diabetes based on stimulating the growth of brown fat or the injection of brown fat into the body.