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‘Brown fat’ guards against obesity by filtering out bad proteins

There IS such a thing as good fat: ‘Brown’ cells guard against obesity and diabetes by filtering out harmful proteins, study finds

  • Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, converts food into body heat
  • Researchers found it also filters out amino acids called BCAAs from the blood that have been linked to diabetes and obesity
  • People with little to no brown fat weren’t able to sift out BCAAs as well as those with high levels of brown fat

It’s true that not all fat is created equal and that some fat can actually help us combat diabetes and obesity.

Now, scientists from Rutgers University in New Jersey have discovered exactly how so-called brown fat benefits our health.

Also known as brown adipose tissue, brown fat’s main role is to turn the food we eat into body heat.

Researchers have learned that brown fat also filters out amino acids that can build up in the body, raising risks for diabetes and obesity. 

But when people have little to no brown fat, their bodies don’t purges these amino acid, leaving them more vulnerable to these chronic diseases. 

A new study from Rutgers University has found that brown fat is essential for filtering out amino acids called BCAAs from the blood that have been linked to diabetes and obesity (file image)

Brown fat burns calories when activated by cool temperatures to generate body heat.

It is typically found in the neck and upper back as well as around the kidneys and spinal cord. 

Humans lose most brown fat after they pass infancy, but it can be generated through exercise, sleeping well and frequently exposing yourself to the cold.

Studies have shown that adults with lower body mass indexes and normal blood sugar levels tend to have more brown fat. 

The new study, published in Nature, found that brown fat helps the body filter out from the blood what are known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

These proteins are not produced naturally by the body and can be found in foods including eggs, fish, meat and milk.

BCAAs are commonly added to supplements because they have been found to help build muscle and decrease muscle soreness.

Normal doses for women are three to five grams a day and 15 to 20 grams a day for men.  

However, in excessive amounts, BCAAs have been associated with abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes, liver disease and obesity.

Researchers found people who have little to no brown were not able to clear BCAAs from their blood as efficiently as those with high levels. 

‘Our study explains the paradox that BCAA supplements can potentially benefit those with active brown fat, such as healthy people,’ said co-author Dr Labros Sidossis, chair of the department of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University. 

‘But it can be detrimental to others, including the elderly, obese and people with diabetes.’

For future research, the team plans to look at whether brown fat filtering BCAAs from the blood can be controlled by environmental factors – such as eating spicy foods – or by drugs.

Dr Sidossis said this could lead to drug-targeted therapies to help combat type 2 diabetes and obesity.  

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