Posts Tagged 'cold'

Cold Exposure, Brown Fat and Obesity

Brown adipose tissue (BAT), primarily found among infants and young children, is linked to protection against obesity and related disorders through its role in energy expenditure and thermogenesis.  Compared to white adipose tissue, BAT contains a much higher density of mitochondria.  These mitochondria are rich in metabolic enzymes such as iron-containing cytochromes, making the tissue brown.  They also contain a unique protein called UCP-1, which dissipates as heat the energy of the electrochemical gradient across the mitochondrial membrane that is usually used to generate ATP, the energy currency of cells.

The varying activity of BAT in people is suggested as a part cause of why some people are susceptible to weight gain with overfeeding, as well as the tendency for weight gain to occur with age since BAT activity seems to reduce with age.  The adaptive thermogenesis process, which replaces the shivering response upon repeated cold exposure, is a novel environmental approach to tackling obesity aside from diet and exercise.  Clinical trials are currently investigating this may reveal a win-win for both public health and the climate change and fuel challenges of the future.