Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is one of two types of fat that humans and other mammals have. Brown fat's primary role in the body is to burn off heat. It is often called good fat.
Unlike white fat, brown fat burns calories through fatty acid oxidation and heat production and is considered a promising target in the fight against the obesity epidemic, According to the study, published in the journal Attachment and Human Behaviour, white adipose tissue or white fat is responsible for obesity and harder to burn off. It is commonly known as bad fat.
"This data improves our understanding of how brown fat works in humans. We found that individuals with active brown fat burned 20 more kilocalories than those without," said study's corresponding author, Florian W Kiefer from the University of Vienna in Austria.
The research team identified two groups using a PET (Positron emission tomography) scan--those with and without active brown fat.
PET is an imaging technique that uses radioactive substances to visualize and measure metabolic processes in the body.
The researchers analysed brown fat function and energy expenditure in these individuals before and after short-term cold exposure.
They found that the group with active brown fat not only burned significantly more calories but had a healthier fatty acid blood profile.
They also found the biggest activator of brown fat is moderate cold exposure.
"We have to study human brown fat in more detail to see if this organ can protect us against metabolic and cardiovascular disease," Kiefer said.