A breakthrough by Australian scientists has found a special kind of fat could be used to possibly treat diabetes.

Scientists at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research have found individuals with more brown fat, fat that uses energy to produce heat, had smaller fluctuations in blood sugar. The researchers said this opens up opportunities for new diabetes treatments.

The majority of the fat in the human body is white fat, which is used to store energy. Brown fat, however, burns energy instead of storing it, keeping the human body warm by burning fat, blood, sugar and glucose.

Dr Paul Lee, who conducted the study, said the results highlight the importance of finding new diabetes treatments.

“Diabetes is a significant health issue worldwide and although we have different forms of therapies at present, none of them can cope with the rise of diabetes. So we are looking for new ways to tackle diabetes. That’s why we turned to the biology of fat cells,” he said.

The study involved measuring the brown fat levels in 15 participants, and found that blood glucose levels fell after a peak of brown fat activity.

Diabetes is caused when the body is unable to produce enough insulin, leading to a build up of glucose in the blood. Too much glucose in the blood damages body systems, in particular nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to life-threatening complications, such as heart attacks and amputations.

Dr Lee plans to identify what activates the brown fat and hopes it will lead to the development of new drugs that will help control glucose levels of people with diabetes.

The full report can be read here.