South Asian people have lower
amounts of so-called "brown fat" than white people do, which might
help explain why they have a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes,
according to a small new study.
Unlike white fat, brown fat burns
calories instead of storing them, and some studies have shown that brown fat
has beneficial effects on glucose (blood sugar) tolerance, fat metabolism and
Research has shown that compared to
whites, South Asians are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, to
develop it at a younger age and at a lower body mass index, which is a
measurement of body fat based on height and weight. However, little has been
known about the reasons behind these differences between South Asians and
whites, the study authors noted.
This study compared brown fat volume
and activity in 12 healthy, lean South Asian men, about 25 years old, and 12
matched white men, after exposing them to cold temperatures. Using an imaging
device, the researchers found that brown fat amounts and activity levels were
lower in the South Asians.
The results were published online in
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
"Our findings suggest that
making more [brown fat] or increasing its activity could have great therapeutic
potential in South Asians, helping them increase the clearance of glucose and
fatty acids and converting surplus white fat into heat, potentially lessening
the risk of diabetes," lead authors Mariette Boon and Patrick Rensen, from
Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said in a journal news
The study authors noted that recent
research has shown that 10 days of exposure to cold can boost brown fat in
humans, and said that future studies should examine the effectiveness of this
strategy, and other methods such as medication, in increasing brown fat
Although the researchers suggested
that there may be a link between lower levels of brown fat and a higher risk of
type 2 diabetes in South Asian people, this study does not prove a
The US National Institutes of Health
has more about brown fat.
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.