A body fat that burns… fat?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

A picture of the group of researchers who made the discovery! From left to right they are: Dr. Rana Gupta, Dr. Philipp Scherer, Dr. Qiong Wang, and graduate student Caroline Tao.

If I went up to you and said, “You need to gain some fat!” would I sound crazy? Probably, because people are encouraged to stay in shape and fight obesity, and that means fending off stubborn fat. Well, researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered how to make a certain fat, and they plan to treat people with their technique!

Did I read that right? I think everyone knows how to make it – you just have to eat a ton of food and never exercise, or something like that. Well, that’s true if you want to gain white fat, which stores extra energy from the food we eat. Not everyone knows that there is something known as brown fat, which is responsible for keeping our bodies nice and warm. It’s almost like a natural jacket! In order keep us toasty, though, it needs energy to burn and produce heat. Guess what it uses as a source? White fat!

Wait, let me get this straight, people are encouraged to lose white fat, but there’s another type that does it for you? Basically, and that’s what the researchers know how to make more of. They conducted a study on mice and discovered that those who stayed in cool environments had large amounts of brown fat in their bodies. ”The major finding is that the cold-induced adaptation and appearance of brown fat cells involves the generation of completely new cells rather than a retooling of pre-existing white fat cells into brown fat cells in response to the cold,” said Dr. Philipp Scherer, Director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research.

The scientists plan to use this technique as a therapy in the future to help individuals maintain healthy weights. Wow, in other words, researchers are helping people gain fat to fight fat… interesting.

Featured image courtesy of University of Gothenburg. Image of research team courtesy of UT Southwestern Medical Center.