Body fat is like two twins: one evil and one good. In this case, white fat-the kind that likes to cluster around the abdomen and hang on to calories-is the bad stuff. The “good” fat is brown, and it has been found to assist the body in burning calories, thus helping keep weight down.
Now researchers at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston may have found a way to get the body to grow more brown fat cells. If so, their approach could help in the treatment of obesity, although they caution that it would only be a supplement to healthy diet and exercise.
The researchers took pre-fat cells, called pre-adipocytes, from samples of brown fat taken from human patients. According to Dr. Aaron Cypress, lead author of the study, most adults have brown fat deposits that extend from the front of their neck to their chest.
Although growing the mature brown fat cells took two weeks in the lab, Cypress says that it would probably happen more quickly in the body. The study found that brown fat cells also exist in fat located deeper in the body, sometimes even mixed in among white fat cells-a condition that Cypress calls “marbling at the cellular level.”
Although highlights of the research were presented to a session of the recent 93rd Annual Meeting and Expo of the Endocrine Society in Boston, they are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.