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Fat is without a doubt one of the hottest topics in the world of health and wellness, but did you know there are multiple types of fat cells that our bodies store and use in different ways?
Many of us have a negative perception of fat based on its association with serious health risks and obesity. However, while some types of fat are more harmful in excess, others can have certain benefits. The amount of each type of fat and the way your body stores that fat can have a big impact on your overall health.
What Is Brown Fat?
In general, white fat is what we think of when we talk about fat. These large white cells are stored in multiple locations throughout the body, and their primary function is to store energy for later use. White fat helps to maintain health, but too much can be harmful.
Brown fat is much less common than white fat and is mostly found in infants. Nonetheless, adults still have it, and its primary function is to help keep us warm. It also helps to regulate the metabolism of sugar and fat, which is why researchers have been particularly interested in brown fat in recent years.
There is also beige fat, which as you might have guessed, is a combination of white and brown fat cells. Aiding in regulating body temperature, scientists have also been intrigued by beige fat cells ability to convert white fat into brown.
While the research into brown fat is still relatively new, findings on how brown fat can help us achieve a healthier weight look promising.
In an August 2019 study published in Nature, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that activated brown fat can help burn fat.
An analysis of glucose, fats, and amino acids was performed in 33 healthy young men. At room temperature, 17 of the men had high brown fat activity while 16 had low activity. They were then exposed to cool temperatures (not enough to make them shiver) for two hours.
Participants with high levels of brown fat activity were found to have reduced levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAA), essential amino acids that provide energy during exercise. Interestingly, past studies have shown an increase of BCAA in participants with serious health risks such as obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
Scientists also discovered that brown fat produces a protein called SLC25A44 (what a mouthful) when it’s exposed to cold environments, which then helps convert BCAAs into energy and heat. Blocking this process caused obesity and diabetes in rodents. Using these findings, researchers were able to better understand how brown fat affects metabolism and interacts with BCAAs.
At Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a June 2014 study published in Nature found that cold exposure affected human fat and metabolism.
Over the course of a month, participants were exposed to mild cold for at least 10 hours at a time while wearing standard hospital attire and bed sheets. By the end of the study, participants had increased their brown fat volume by 42% and their fat metabolic activity by 10% in addition to improving their insulin sensitivity.
How To Activate Brown Fat
You might have noticed that both studies used cool temperatures to activate brown fat. That said, you don’t need to stand outside shivering your butt off to potentially see results. Here are a few possible things to try instead.
1. Get Outdoors While It’s Cold
Try making a habit of taking brisk morning walks or cool evening strolls. You could also go hiking with the family or finish some long overdue yard work in chillier temperatures. Staying indoors may be tempting, but as the UCSF study demonstrated, that cold exposure will help activate your brown fat cells and could lead to overall fat loss.
2. Crank Down The Temps At Night
In addition to saving you money on your heating bill, keeping the thermostat at a low setting overnight may also crank up your metabolism. As noted in the VCU study, sleeping in a cooler room can improve your overall health due to the activation of brown fat.
3. Get A Healthy Dose Of Meat Or Nuts
If you dislike the cold (can’t say I blame you), you’ll be glad to know there are some other options for boosting brown fat production. A June 2022 study published in Pharmaceutics found that L-arginine—an amino acid found in whole grains, dairy products, nuts, fish, and meat—effectively accelerated the transformation of white fat into brown fat after seven days.
4. Try Adding A Supplement To Your Diet
We get it, making changes to your diet isn’t always easy or possible. As an alternative, you can always supplement your diet with … well, supplements, like the NOW L-arginine Supplements. To maximize metabolic management, take two tablets of 1,000 mg per day.
Research published by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in September 2015 also suggested that curcumin (a substance in turmeric) may help turn white fat brown, in which case supplements such as the Qunol Turmeric Curcumin Capsules could come in handy. Taking two 1,000 mg capsules daily is recommended for best results.