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Fat Feedback

March 5, 2009

Fat cells communicate with the brain to regulate how much we burn.



Fat’s communication system. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fat may tell your brain when to stop burning fat. This according to Georgia State University biologist Timothy Bartness and his colleagues. They had already learned that when energy runs low, the brain sends nerve signals directly to fat to start burning it. Now, they’ve shown that separate nerve pathways allow fat cells to talk back to the brain.

TIMOTHY BARTNESS (Georgia State University):
It seems pretty clear that at least one of the functions of these nerves might be to monitor how much fat’s being mobilized.

In fact, he found that those nerves respond to the breakdown of fat. Bartness says that once the brain learns that energy is on the way, it may shut down the fat burning process to conserve resources. The insights may help doctors understand and treat obesity. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.