Questions for ‘The color of body fat might affect how trim people are’


White fat stores energy, and brown fat burns calories. Scientists studying this type of body fat hope to find ways to boost its levels to help fight obesity and diabetes.

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To accompany feature “The color of body fat might affect how trim people are”


Before Reading

1. How many different roles can you think of that fat plays in someone’s body? List them.

2. How does an animal prepare for hibernation? Why are these actions important?

During Reading

1.   How do brown fat and white fat differ when it comes to calories (energy)?

2.   Where was brown fat first discovered?

3.   How is white fat important for hibernating animals? How do they use brown fat?

4.   What makes brown fat cells brown? What makes white fat cells white? How do those characteristics relate to each cell type’s job?

5.   What happens to white fat cells when they are exposed to cold temperatures? What happens when they stop being cold?

6.   According to Shingo Kajimura, what is a possible way that the ability of fat cells to change color could be used to help people?

7.   What changes did Kajimura’s research group see in white fat cells in mice with boosted calcium movement?

8.   What changes did Claudio Villanueva’s team find in mice after reducing white fat cells’ ability to store energy?

9.   What is melatonin? When do our bodies naturally make it?

10.   How did a melatonin supplement change beige fat in rats? How was the change different between obese and lean rats?

After Reading

1.   What factors can you think of that might affect how much brown fat an individual has? 

2.   Imagine the research described in this story advanced to a point where it was possible to take a pill to increase how much brown fat you have. Would you want to take the pill? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning.