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    Radiology News said:
    August 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Thermal Imaging Technique to Fight Fat

    Posted on 02 Aug 2012

    British scientists believe they have devised a way to fight obesity–with an innovative technique that employs thermal imaging. This heat-seeking technology is being used to trace reserves of brown fat–the body’s beneficial fat–which plays a major role in how quickly the body can burn calories as energy.

    This special tissue known as brown adipose tissue (brown fat) produces 300 times more heat than any other tissue in the body. Hypothetically, the more brown fat people have the less likely they are to put down excess energy or food as white fat.

    Michael Symonds, a professor of developmental physiology in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Nottingham (UK), led a team of scientists and clinicians at the University of Nottingham who have established the thermal imaging process so they can evaluated how much brown fat humans have and how much heat it is generating. Their research was published June 7, 2012, in the Journal of Pediatrics.

    The University of Nottingham’s early life nutrition-research unit is at the lead of groundbreaking international research into managing brown adipose tissue using nutrition, exercise, and environmental and therapeutic interventions. Prof. 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 noninvasive 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.”

    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 United Kingdom 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.”

    Prof. Symonds and his colleagues reported that their cutting-edge research could lead to a clearer determined of how brown fat balances the energy from the food we eat with the energy our bodies actually use up.

    Prof. Symonds, combined with Dr. Budge and their team from the University’s School of Clinical Sciences has revealed that the neck region in healthy children generates heat. With the aid of local schoolchildren, they found that this area, which is known to contain brown adipose tissue, quickly turns on to produce heat. This capacity is much greater in young children compared with adolescents and adults. The researchers are now using their findings to explore interventions designed to promote energy use as heat and, thus, prevent excess weight gain in both children and adults.

    Prof. Symonds said, “Using our imaging technique we can locate brown fat and assess its capacity to produce heat. It avoids harmful techniques, which use radiation, and enables detailed studies with larger groups of people. This may provide new insights into the role of brown fat in how we balance energy from the food we eat, with the energy our bodies use up. “

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