Researchers have also now found that, unlike white fat, which lowers insulin sensitivity, brown fat actually improves insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control and fat-burning metabolism.
“This is good news for overweight and obese people,” Labros Sidossis, a professor of internal medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said in a university news release. “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.”
Previous research has suggested that brown fat plays a role in regulating body temperature, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
For the new study, researchers compared the resting energy expenditure, blood sugar usage and insulin sensitivity of a group of similar, healthy men with either high or low levels of brown fat.
“We showed that exposure to mild cold raised whole body energy expenditure, increased glucose [blood sugar] removal from the circulation and improved insulin sensitivity in men who have significant amounts of brown [fat],” explained Sidossis. “These results support the notion that brown [fat] may function as an anti-obesity and anti-diabetic tissue in humans.”