TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Unhealthy white fat can be transformed into calorie-burning brown fat, researchers report.
Finding a way to burn calories without having to increase physical activity levels could prove crucial in fighting obesity and the health problems it causes, according to researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Previous studies have shown that when brown fat is "switched on" in people, it increases metabolism and lowers blood sugar levels.
This study found that white fat in people can be turned into brown fat, but only after severe and prolonged adrenaline-releasing stress. Specifically, the switch from white to brown fat was found in patients who suffered severe burns over about half of their bodies.
The study was published in the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
"Our study provides proof of concept that browning of white fat is possible in humans. The next step is to identify the mechanisms underpinning this effect and then to develop drugs that mimic the burn-induced effect," study author Labros Sidossis, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said in a university news release.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about brown fat.