Last year, researchers made a game-changing realisation: brown fat, the energy-burning stuff that keeps babies warm, isn't just for the youngest among us. Adults have it, too (if they are lucky, anyway), and it is beginning to look like the heat-generating tissue might hold considerable metabolic importance for familiar and irritating trends, like our tendency to put on extra weight as we age. If we can find a way to hold onto, make more, or activate brown fat, it might be one way to help keep us slim, according to scientists who have written a series of mini-reviews published in Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press journal.
Brown fat was once the preoccupation of a few researchers studying rodents and newborn mammals. "At times, their work was deemed more an exercise in scientific curiosity than an issue relevant to human health," write Cell Metabolism editors Nikla Emambokus and Charlotte Wang in an editorial.