The Healthland Podcast: Brown Fat, Crawling-Skin Disease, Messy Desks and Kids’ Vaccines

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This week on the podcast: how your brown fat can burn white fat, whether Morgellons disease is real, what your messy desk says about you (it’s not what you think), and how chemicals in household items may weaken children’s response to vaccines. Click the play button below to listen, or go to iTunes to listen and subscribe for free.

TIME senior health writer Alice Park enlightens us about brown fat, a heat-generating fat found in rodents and babies and in small quantities in adults. When activated by the cold, brown fat can actually “eat up” your white fat — exactly the kind of fat that most people would like to shed. And thus scientists (and the weight loss industry) are on the quest to harness the powers of brown fat.

Healthland editor Sora Song describes the terrible symptoms of people claiming to have Morgellons, a condition that gives the sensation of insects crawling under the skin. Researchers concluded this week that there is no medical explanation, suggesting that sufferers may have a mental illness rather than a physical one.

Alice brings us up to speed about a study that suggests that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) found in many household items (such as stain-resistant carpets, microwave popcorn bags and nonstick pots and pans) can diminish the effectiveness of important vaccines in children.

And the winner of the messy desk award, TIME editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe, explains (with some relief) why physical clutter does not equal mental disorganization.

Thanks for listening.