“Beige fat” cells found in healthy subcutaneous fat in mice play a critical role in protecting the body from the disease risks of obesity, report researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who say their study findings may have implications for therapy of obesity-related illness in humans.
A report in the journal Cell suggests that the presence of beige fat, a type of fat cell that can burn energy to release heat, is what makes subcutaneous obesity relatively healthy compared with visceral fat inside the abdomen, which largely lacks beige fat cells and is associated with increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, and death.
Excess calories in overweight people are stored in fatty tissues mainly composed of white fat cells. Beige fat is present in scattered deposits in adult humans, mixed in with white fat. Beige cells can activate a “thermogenic” mechanism that burns stored fat to make heat. When this occurs within white fat, the process is called “browning.”