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Skinny children have more 'good fat', study shows

Thinner kids are more likely to carry ‘brown fat’ – which helps burn energy instead of storing it.

File photo of children playing
File photo of children playing
Image: Dave Thompson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A NEW STUDY has found that thin children are more likely to be carrying ‘good fat’, which helps them burn energy.

The research revolves around the role of so-called brown fat, which is present in large numbers of children but only a few adults. Brown fat is different to normal ‘white’ fat because it metabolises energy, rather than storing it as more fat reserves.

Some 44 per cent of children were found to carry brown fat in the study published by the Journal of Pediatrics. It was present equally frequently in boys and girls – but had an inverse relationship with a child’s body mass index (BMI). This effectively means that thin children have more brown fat, while overweight ones have less.

The study’s authors said their results could provide a way to fight rising child obesity. A study published earlier this year showed obesity is a growing problem in Ireland, with more than a quarter of men and one in five women clinically obese.

“Increasing the amount of brown fat in children may be an effective approach at combating the ever increasing rate of obesity and diabetes in children,” the study’s senior author Aaron Cypess told Science Daily.

“We might be able to combat the obesity and diabetes epidemics if we find safe ways of increasing brown fat activity. This might be an additional tool in the fight.”

Read more: Obesity on the rise in Ireland, survey shows >

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Michael Freeman

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