Chill out, burn fat

It's perhaps not surprising, but University of California Berkeley researchers have demonstrated that if you spend more time in the cold, then your body will make more of a protein involved in the formation of so-called "brown fat," the kind of fat that generates heat to keep you at a steady temperature. At least that's the proposition regarding transcription factor Zfp516 in experiments on laboratory mice. Moreover, this protein helps convert white fat, the kind that those hoping to lose weight would rather shed, into a form similar to brown fat that also burns "calories". "Knowing which proteins regulate brown fat is significant because brown fat is not only important for thermogenesis, but there is evidence that brown fat may also affect metabolism and insulin resistance," explains principal investigator Hei Sook Sul. How this discovery might translate to human metabolism and obesity remains to be seen.