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Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic disease, driving an unsustainable escalation in Australian healthcare costs. Understanding the fundamental physiology underpinning all aspects of human body weight regulation is essential to stem the obesity epidemic. While overeating is an obvious cause of obesity, there is considerable variation across the population in an individual’s susceptibility to weight gain during overeating. Recent pre-clinical studies suggest that some of this variation may relate to differences in brown adipose tissue (BAT), which is typically located on a person’s neck and shoulder region. Increasing the volume and function of this tissue is now considered a key target for prevention and reversal of obesity, with researchers increasingly turning their attention to this exciting area of investigation following important advances in the understanding of brown adipose tissue biology. In mice, brown adipose tissue is essential in controlling changes in adaptive energy expenditure in response to altered energy intake, however, BAT differs between mice and humans in appearance, volume, location and function.

This proposal will presently explain unknown aspects of human brown fat function during periods of increased energy intake in lean and obese men, and importantly, help to inform future therapies around weight management.

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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