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Scientists Finally Able to Identify Brown Fat in Adults

There are two types of fat present within humans at any given time: Brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT), or simply brown and white fat. White fat is the fat that is generally associated with weight gain, and is known as the ‘bad’ fat. Brown fat, however, is different; its main purpose is to use energy to generate body heat which in turn burns calories, and therefore aids weight maintenance. Therefore, brown fat is ‘good’ fat. 

Because of this duality between the types of fats, scientists have obviously been interested in researching brown fat in order to create new treatments for diabetes, obesity, and even everyday weight loss. 

However, studying brown fat is easier said than done, as it was previously only thought to exist when humans are babies and children. Yet, in preparation for a surgical procedure to remove a parathyroid gland from a jaw-tumor patient, an MRI revealed brown fat within a living, adult human. 

This finding is revolutionary as well as two-fold: 

1. Brown fat was for the first time seen within a living adult human.
2. MRI’s have proven effective in locating brown fat, opposed to the previous ineffective method of positron emission tomography (PET).

Now that this initial finding has occurred, scientists are already relishing over the further studies that can now happen over a wide range of adults.

Dr. Thomas Barber of the Department of Metabolic and Vascular Health at Warwick Medical School is extremely optimistic about the study of brown fat, and sees these studies continuing on to help more efficiently treat an array of diseases that affect weight loss/gain.