Nav: Home

Stress could help activate brown fat

February 08, 2016

Mild stress stimulates the activity and heat production by brown fat associated with raised cortisol, according to a study published today in Experimental Physiology.

Brown adipose tissue (BAT), also known as brown fat, is one of two types of fat found in humans and other mammals. Initially only attributed to babies and hibernating mammals, it was discovered in recent years that adults can have brown fat too. Its main function is to generate body heat by burning calories (opposed to white fat, which is a result of storing excess calories. People with a lower body mass index (BMI) therefore have a higher amount of brown fat.

To induce a mild psychological stress, five healthy lean women had to solve a short maths test in the first run, but in the second run, the test was substituted with a relaxation video. To assess stress responses, the scientists measured cortisol in the saliva. To measure the activity of brown fat, the researchers used infrared thermography to detect changes in temperature of the skin overlying the main area of brown fat in humans (in the neck (supraclavicular) region).

Although the actual maths tests did not elicit an acute stress response, the anticipation of being tested did, and led to raised cortisol and warmer brown fat. Both were positively correlated, with higher cortisol linked with more fat activity and thus more potential heat production.

Prof Michael E Symonds from The School of Medicine, University of Nottingham and Co-author of the study comments,

'Our research indicates that the variation in brown fat activity between individuals may be explained by differences in their response to psychological stress. This is important as brown fat has a unique capacity to rapidly generate heat and metabolise glucose.

'Most adults only have between 50-100 g of brown fat but because its capacity to generate heat is 300 times greater (per unit mass) than any other tissue, brown fat has the potential to rapidly metabolise glucose and lipids. There is an inverse relationship between the amount of brown fat and BMI, and whether this is a direct consequence of having more active fat remains to be fully established.

'A better understanding of the main factors controlling brown fat activity, which include diet and activity, therefore has the potential to introduce sustainable interventions designed to prevent obesity and diabetes. In future, new techniques to induce mild stress to promote brown fat activity could be incorporated alongside dietary and/or environmental interventions. This is likely to contrast with the negative effects of chronic and more severe stress that can contribute to poor metabolic health.'
-end-


The Physiological Society

Related Brown Fat Articles:

Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat may lower cholesterol as well as drugs
Scientific studies that lowered intake of saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease by approximately 30 percent; similar to cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins.
Mice will help reveal the roles of human brown fat
Scientists have discovered that mice have metabolically active brown fat deposits similar to the largest depot found in people.
Imaging from UK biobank participants shows that people with higher internal organ fat and thigh muscle fat spend more nights in hospital
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal (May 17-20) shows that middle-aged people who spend the most nights in hospital (and thus have the highest healthcare burden) have on average much higher levels of visceral fat (internal fat that surrounds their organs) and fat within their thigh muscles than those who spend no nights in hospital.
Breast cancer risk is more affected by total body fat than abdominal fat
A reduction in overall body fat, rather than abdominal fat, is associated with lower levels of breast cancer markers.
Protein hampers the positive power of brown and beige fat
Too much of a protein already associated with prostate cancer appears to also diminish the energy burning power of brown fat, scientists report.
Low-calorie sweeteners promote fat accumulation in human fat
Low-calorie, artificial sweeteners appear to play havoc with the body's metabolism, and large consumption of these sugar substitutes could promote fat accumulation, especially in people who are already obese, preliminary research suggests.
Giving brown fat a green light
Since the discovery in 2009 that brown fat can be active in adult humans, researchers around the world have worked to unveil ways to switch on this fat.
Making metabolically active brown fat from white fat-derived stem cells
Researchers have demonstrated the potential to engineer brown adipose tissue, which has therapeutic promise to treat metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, from white adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs).
Humans have three times more brown body fat
Compared to white fat, brown body fat burns through energy at an extraordinary rate.
How to turn white fat brown
Researchers found that the browning program in white fat cells is normally suppressed by a protein called FLCN.

Related Brown Fat Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".