Worldwide, almost 40% of adults are overweight and 13% have obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for a number of health conditions, but many people find it hard to lose weight.
A new study has found that brown fat cells produce a molecule that helps burn fat. This could point toward new treatments to help fight obesity and overweight.
According to the World Health OrganizationTrusted SourceTrusted Source(Trusted SourceWTrusted SourceHTrusted SourceOTrusted Source)Trusted Source, obesity has tripled worldwide since 1975. Obesity and overweight are more prevalent in high-income countries, but the numbers are rising rapidly in low- and middle-income countries. More than 40%Trusted Source of adults in the United States and 28% of adults in the United Kingdom currently have obesity.
Add in those with overweight, and the figures rise to 73% of U.S. adults, and almost 63% in the U.K. Obesity and overweight are risk factors for many heaTrusted SourcelTrusted Sourceth conditionsTrusted Source, including heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and some cancers.
People with obesity who wish to lose weight can try to do so by:
These can help, but for many people, weight loss can be hard to maintain. Now, a team from the University of Bonn, Germany, has identified a molecule that may help to burn fat. The study findings, published in July in the journal, NatureTrusted Source, may point toward a new treatment for obesity.
People, and most other mammals, have two types of fat cells, or adipose tissue. White fat cells store energy; brown fat cells burn that energy to produce heat. However, unless the environment is cold — which, with central heating, it rarely is for most people — these brown fat cells are not needed.
Modern humans eat a more energy-rich diet and move around less than our ancestors, which means we don’t really use our brown fat cells and accumulate white fat cells, leading to weight gain. The plentiful brown fat cells that keep newborns warm gradually cease to function and die away. “It has long been known that brown fat cells are full of mitochondria, which are a source of energy and heat.
Brown fat cells are most abundant in infants and decrease with age.”