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science nutrition blog

The human body contains small amounts of a calorie-burning tissue called brown fat (brown adipose tissue, BAT) that converts food energy directly into heat. White fat does the opposite— it stores energy. BAT promotes non-shivering thermogenesis, which generates heat and helps animals and humans adapt to the cold. Brown fat accounts for as much as 10 percent of the fat mass in people living in cold climates, such as northern Finland. Paul Lee and colleagues from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland found that men sleeping in a cold room increased brown fat and improved insulin sensitivity. Brown fat reverted to normal levels when they slept in warmer rooms. Individual differences in BAT content and activity play important roles in human obesity. Altering room temperature at night might be a simple, but effective way to promote weight loss. (Diabetes, published online)