Compared to white fat, brown body fat burns through energy at an extraordinary rate. However, until now the proportion of brown fat in humans was thought to be quite small. Now a study conducted by researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany has shown: The quantity of brown fat in humans is three times greater than previously known. As a consequence, new obesity and diabetes drugs that activate brown adipose tissue are expected to be more effective. For the study, published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, nearly 3,000 PET scans of 1,644 patients were analyzed. PET is an acronym for positron emission tomography, a method widely used in oncology. PET scans enable the visualization of metabolic activity in the body. Because a tumor often has a different energy metabolism than healthy tissue, PET scans can be used to demonstrate the presence of metastases. "A byproduct of PET scans is that they allow us to see active brown adipose tissue," said Dr .Tobias Fromme from the Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center at the TUM. “Brown adipose tissue absorbs lots of sugar, and we can observe this activity through the scans." For example, it is conceivable that a drug could reduce excessive blood sugar levels in diabetics by increasing the activity of the brown fat. Similarly, it is conceivable that patients with obesity could use the high rate of energy combustion through brown fat to melt away their excess weight -- at least to a certain extent. "In any event, the outlook for the efficacy of drugs in brown adipose tissue can be adjusted upwards," said the researcher. The analysis of the PET scans also revealed that some groups of persons have an easier time activating their brown fat than others, or even have more of it in the first place.
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