Adipose tissue plasticity explained to young readers by NMS researchers

Researchers from the Neuronal Control of Metabolic Disturbances lab published in Frontiers for Young Minds a review of existing knowledge about how our fat-accumulating cells evolve over time.

Sílvia Conde, Rita Figueiredo, Ana Soares and Fátima Martins

Adipose tissue has three distinct types: white, from the food we eat; brown, responsible for producing heat; and beige, an intermediate stage between the other two.

Students Ana Soares and Rita Figueiredo from FCT NOVA majoring in Biochemistry, interns under the guidance of researchers Fátima Martins and Sílvia Conde, contributed to the scientific literacy of young people in this Frontiers group magazine, summarizing the existing knowledge about the evolution of adipose tissue throughout the aging process. The peer review process for this journal also involves young reviewers who ensure that the content is understandable for everyone.

Research suggests that adipose tissue cells have the plasticity to change from white tissue, the most harmful to health and which affects patients with diabetes and obesity, to brown or beige tissue. Two strategies, tested in mice, may involve using low temperatures and a lower calorie diet to reduce the amount of white adipose tissue.

See this science communication article on Frontiers for Young Minds website.


Unhealthy habits such as eating too many foods high in fat and sugar and/or not getting enough exercise lead to an increase in white adipose tissue and a lightening of brown adipose tissue as adipocytes have to store large amounts of fat. However, studies in rats and mice indicate that exposure to low temperatures and a healthy diet can increase the amount of brown adipose tissue.