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Study Finds Fat Type That can Protect Against Weight Gain and Diabetes

adipose tissue (BAT) burns energy and generates heat.

White fat, which is packed with large lipid droplets, is deposited under the skin, around internal organs and as visceral fat – one of the most harmful forms of abdominal fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, contains small lipid droplets tucked behind tiny energy factories called mitochondria. These cells are most prevalent in the necks of infants and between the shoulder blades in mice to help their bodies generate heat, but tend to mostly disappear by adulthood. A 2005 Joslin study by Dr. Kahn and his colleagues discovered genes that control the creation of the precursor cells that give rise to brown fat cells. This latest study shows that brown fat may not disappear in all adult animals and that little collections of brown fat may account for why some mice are protected from obesity and diabetes and others are not.

This study began by exploring differences in basal energy expenditure (the amount of energy required to maintain the body's normal metabolic activity, such as respiration and maintenance of body temperature) and its role in the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome in two different genetic strains of mice: the B6 mouse and the 129 mouse. The B6 mouse is one of the most commonly used strains in metabolic research and an established model for diet-induced obesity.

When placed on a high-fat diet, the B6 mouse develops severe obesity, high blood glucose and insulin resistance with extremely high insulin levels. By contrast, the 129 mouse gains on average 30 to 50 percent less weight on either a high-or low-fat diet than the B6 mouse and has been considered resistant to dietary induced obesity and glucose intolerance. In the new study, Dr. Kahn and his colleagues showed that this difference is due to the higher basal energy expenditure in the 129 mouse. When searching for the source of the energy expenditure, the researchers found unexpected clusters of brown f
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