Going to BAT for Obesity Solutions?Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Last week saw an almost complete edition of the New England Journal of Medicine devoted to obesity – the key finding: brown adipose tissue (BAT) is alive and well in adults and in some people may contribute significantly to resting metabolic rate.
Although the discussion has been going on for a long time, these articles now provide conclusive evidence that BAT is indeed present in adults – women have more than men.
The presence of BAT is negatively correlated with BMI – the higher the BMI, the lesser the BAT. This suggests that having BAT may protect from weight gain (are these the folks, who can eat all they want without gaining a pound?).
BAT is stimulated by exposure to cold – not entirely unexpected. I can’t wait to see how this concept is embraced by the weight loss industry and public media.
BAT is less present in older individuals – again, not unexpected, given that expression of BAT is linked to sympathetic nervous activity, which tends to decrease with age.
Obviously, lots of interesting questions:
Can pharmacological stimulation of BAT promote weight loss – remember, this was already tried unsuccessfully with beta 3-agonists. They stimulated BAT but were poorly tolerated and never made it to market.
Can BAT imaging help identify folks at risk for weight gain – certainly not with current technology (PET-CTs), which would be prohibitively expensive.
Is turning down the ambient temperature an effective solution to preventing obesity – my guess is not.
Great science – unfortunately, no quick fix for the obesity epidemic.