Brown Fat Versus White Fat: Why You’ll Want More of One Kind of This Fat

( - It may sound counterintuitive, but a certain type of body fat can actually help you lose weight more effectively! It’s true.

Just like not all dietary fats are “bad,” not all fat cells are bad either. Some can actually help you slim down faster and more effectively.

You’ll even enjoy other health benefits, like a lower diabetes risk.

What’s the Difference Between Brown Fat and White Fat?

Your body has two different types of fat cells: brown fat cells (also called brown adipose tissue or BAT) and white fat cells (also known as white adipose tissue or WAT). White fat cells form and grow as you take in calories. White fat cells really just serve as a storage system for potential energy.

But brown fat cells work in a very different way. Brown fat cells generate heat, burning fuel to warm your body. The typical adult has between 50 and 100 grams of brown fat cells. By weight, these cells can generate heat at a rate that’s 300 times greater than any other type of tissue in your body.

A recent study revealed that brown fat can help you develop a faster metabolic rate, while lowering blood sugar levels and reducing body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measure of what portion of your body mass is comprised of fat.

Another research study into brown fat identified this type of cell as a potential “therapy” for diabetes, thanks to its ability to lower your blood sugar levels. It was also identified as a possible treatment for obesity, since brown fat promotes weight loss.

In a different study, researchers found that men who qualify as obese actually see less heat-generating activity in the brown fat cells. It’s an area that requires lots of additional research in order to determine the relationship between obesity and brown adipose tissue. It’s unclear whether a lack of brown fat causes obesity or whether obesity causes a reduction in brown fat.

Study Shows White Fat Can Be Converted into Brown Fat

Curiously, there’s now more and more evidence to suggest that your body’s white fat cells can actually be converted into the beneficial brown fat. Researchers found that your white fat cells may convert into brown fat after they’re exposed to prolonged and intense stress, which releases high levels of adrenaline. This process was observed in burn patients who’d sustained severe thermal injuries to more than 50 percent of their bodies.

This conversion process is a subject that scientists are probing intensely because if they can determine the mechanism for this process, it would theoretically be possible to develop drug therapies that could mimic or serve as a catalyst for the white-to-brown fat conversion.

Scientists at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston believe that if we could get the body to convert white fat to brown fat on demand, this could help you lose weight without increasing your activity levels. This would be especially helpful for those who suffer from severe obesity, which makes it very challenging to move and exercise effectively.

A study published in Experimental Physiology revealed that subjecting your body to mild stress can actually activate your brown fat cells, causing them to kick into action burning calories and generating heat. In the study, the stress was induced by administering a brief math test.

The study led researchers to speculate that differences in brown fat activity could be the result of differences in the stress response amongst individuals.

Brown Fat and Exercise

As you exercise, brown fat plays a vital role in generating heat. When you exercise – especially in cold weather – you’ll kick those brown fat cells into overdrive. That means you’ll burn more calories without ramping up the intensity of your workout. That’s a big win!

In fact, you can maximize your weight loss by running in the cold or taking a cold swim (though not too cold, lest you get hypothermia!) So celebs like Madonna (who has been photographed biking and running in the cold in London and New York) may have the right idea! Those brown fat cells give you just one more reason to get active, even when it cools down.

An animal study that was the subject of a paper published in the Journal of Disease Models and Mechanisms, found that exercise triggered the release of an enzyme known as irisin. This enzyme has the power to kickstart the white-to-brown fat cell conversion process.

Another piece of research revealed that men saw a similar fat conversion process while exercising. The process continued over the course of a 12-week exercise regime of cycling on a stationary bicycle.

So suffering major burns or getting stressed may not be the only ways to convert white fat to brown fat; exercise may give you some big benefits in this area. Plus, exercising in the cold will stimulate those brown fat cells into action, giving you even more bang for your buck. So when the weather cools down, don’t view it as an excuse to skip your daily run. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to maximize your weight loss!


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