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Jul 28, 2014 04:27 AM EDT

Brown Fat Effective against Obesity and Diabetes, Study

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Higher levels of brown fat lead to better blood sugar control, enhanced insulin sensitivity and superior metabolic performance, according to a new study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Researchers said that brown adipose tissue can be an effective medical weapon against diabetes          

"We showed that exposure to mild cold raised whole body energy expenditure, increased glucose removal from the circulation and improved insulin sensitivity in men who have significant amounts of brown adipose tissue depots," said Labros Sidossis, professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, in a statement. "These results support the notion that brown adipose tissue may function as an anti-obesity and anti-diabetic tissue in humans."

For the study, researchers compared resting energy expenditure, glucose usage and insulin sensitivity among healthy men with either high or low levels of brown fat tissue.

All the participants were exposed to either normal temperature conditions or mildly cold temperatures for five to eight hours. During the exposure periods, the researchers analysed blood and breath samples to observe changes in glucose and insulin concentrations, hormone changes, whole body oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production rates. They also examined differences in cellular energy production and gene expression by testing brown and white fat tissue samples.

"In this study we show that, when activated via mild cold exposure, brown adipose tissue can increase energy expenditure and burn calories. This is good news for overweight and obese people," said Sidossis. "Of even greater clinical significance maybe the finding that brown fat can help the body regulate blood sugar more effectively. This is great news for people with insulin resistance and diabetes and suggests that brown fat may prove to be an important anti-diabetic tissue".

The finding is published in the journal Diabetes.                                         

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