BROWN FAT – How Harvard Scientists Changed the World

Anyone who saw Star Trek in the 1970s probably remembers “The Communicator”. A small device that everyone at the time thought: It’s a shame that something like this doesn’t exist.

Today almost everyone has a cell phone that can do much more and no one is surprised that it works.

It was similar with the brown fat. For decades, scientists were convinced that “brown fat” (BAT = brown adipose tissue) only existed in babies.

Because they cannot regulate their body temperature themselves and the brown fat does that for them. According to science, adults only had white fat – and often too much of it.

Until a few years ago, scientists at Harvard Medical School discovered that adults also have brown fat. That was quite a sensation. Numerous research groups immediately jumped on the topic and found that people in Nordic countries have more of it than southerners. Slim people have more brown fat than fatter people – and the amount of brown fat decreases with age. Which explains why losing weight becomes more and more difficult as you get older.

This made it clear: brown fat has something to do with body weight.

That is also completely logical. Because brown fat is still responsible – not just in babies – for regulating body temperature and uses energy in the process. Brown fat also gets its name from the fact that it appears brown in imaging procedures because, compared to white fat, it contains many mitochondria – numerous power plants in the cells.

The beauty of it:

When regulating body temperature, brown fat breaks down white fat. Why? Because a lot of energy is needed to regulate temperature. And who is the energy supplier? Correct: white fat. Therefore: the more brown fat – the less white fat – and “the leaner”.

They could have actually thought of this earlier….similar to cell phones!

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