Danish study uncovers more to white, brown fat tissue and related biological processes

A recent study on the white and brown fat cells in the human body more clearly distinguishes one from the other – it helps to have more brown fat to generate heat by burning calories, while large amounts of white fat is associated with excess calories and metabolic disease, report agencies. 

According to researchers at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in Denmark, these two fat tissue types are responsible for sending very different signals to the rest of the body, to elicit very different responses.

Brown fat cells have more iron-rich mitochondria that gives it its distinct colour – the researchers found that brown fat secretes specific proteins which are better at producing heat and energy and regulating the cellular immune system. Meanwhile, the energy reserve of white fat secretes proteins that allow for greater tissue plasticity.

Associate Professor Camilla Schéele from the UCPH’s Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR), highlights that one of the proteins that brown fat secretes plays an important role in developing and maturing new brown fat cells – which would regulate core body temperature.For instance, by having more brown fat around their upper body, newborns have a means of generating heat, as they have yet to be able to move from the cold like grown adults.

In addition, animal experiments have shown that adding more brown fat increases the rate at which energy is burnt, reduces the amount of fat content on their bodies and protects them against diet-induced obesity. Researchers are thus studying more about the effects of white and brown fat, in the hopes of helping obese people lose weight by burning off their excess stores of fat.