Swedish researchers have found that adults use brown fat to convert energy into heat, a finding that may lead to novel treatments for overweight and obesity.
Sven Enerback, Professor at the Institute of Biomedicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, points out that the brown fat found in infants is traditionally believed to disappear as a person grows up.
However, the researcher insists, the new study has shown the presence of brown fat cells in the lower part of the neck in adults, just above their collarbones.
During the study, the researchers tested the region of brown fat cells in the neck by placing five volunteers, in thin clothing, in a chilly room for a couple of hours.
Using PET scanning, the researchers studied this region, and found that metabolism there was on average 15 times higher than in the neighbouring white fat tissue.
Prof. Enerback says that the result suggests that the brown fat may play a significant role in metabolism.
The expert believes that this finding may pave the way for new and better ways of treating obesity.
Prof. Enerback reckons that any such novel treatments would be based on an exciting strategy that focuses on increasing the amount of fat burnt by the body, instead of focusing solely on reducing the intake of energy.
A report on this study has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine.