There are two main types of fat — brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is considered to be a 'good fat' or 'healthy fat' because it burns calories to help generate heat for our bodies and expend energy. White fat stores energy for later and is known to increase the risk for health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. An individual with a healthy metabolism has less white fat and an active supply of brown fat. Researchers from Georgia State University have found that brown fat tissue communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting human obesity.
The researchers found that when brown fat tissue was activated with a drug that mimics the sympathetic nervous system messages that normally come from the brain, the fat talked back to the brain by activating sensory nerves. They also found that sensory nerves from brown fat increased their activity in response to direct chemical activation and heat generation. Researchers speculate that the brown fat is telling the brain many things, such as how much heat is being generated, how much and what types of free energy are being used or stored, how much fat one has, and how much fat one has lost.
Johnny Garretson, study author and doctoral student, said, "This is the first time that the function of sensory nerves from brown fat has been examined. Brown fat is an active organ that is relatively important for metabolism, and we found a new pathway of its communication. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to target brown fat and activate it more. Knowing how to increase the amount of brown fat activity or increase the brown fat, that is the future of trying to figure out yet another way to try and lose weight effectively and quickly. This study shows a feedback loop between brown fat tissue and the brain."
The findings are published in The Journal of Neuroscience