Scientists at The University of Nottingham believe they've found a way of fighting obesity — with a pioneering technique which uses thermal imaging. This heat-seeking technology is being used to trace our reserves of brown fat — the body's 'good fat' — which plays a key role in how quickly our body can burn calories as energy.
This special tissue known as Brown Adipose Tissue, or brown fat, produces 300 times more heat than any other tissue in the body. Potentially the more brown fat we have the less likely we are to lay down excess energy or food as white fat.
Michael Symonds, Professor of Developmental Physiology in the School of Clinical Sciences, led a team of scientists and doctors at The University of Nottingham who have pioneered the thermal imaging process so we can assess how much brown fat we've got and how much heat it is producing. Their research has just been published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The University of Nottingham's Early Life Nutrition Research Unit is at the forefront of ground-breaking international research into managing brown adipose tissue using nutrition, exercise, and environmental and therapeutic interventions.
Thermogenic index for food labels
Professor Symonds said: "Potentially the more brown fat you have or the more active your brown fat is you produce more heat and as a result you might be less likely to lay down excess energy or food as white fat.
"This completely non-invasive technique could play a crucial role in our fight against obesity. Potentially we could add a thermogenic index to food labels to show whether that product would increase or decrease heat production within brown fat. In other words whether it would speed up or slow down the amount of calories we burn."
The obesity threat
Obesity is one of the biggest challenges we face in Europe and America as our children grow older. It affects 155 million children worldwide. In the UK the number of overweight children doubled in the 1990s.
Dr Helen Budge, Clinical Associate Professor and Reader in Neonatology, said: "Babies have a larger amount of brown fat which they use up to keep warm soon after birth making our study's finding that this healthy fat can also generate heat in childhood and adolescence very exciting."