Want to be healthy? Get your “Brown Fat” into Action!
Humans have two kinds of fat – white fat and brown fat. White fat is found just below the skin and is what we see as belly or abdominal fat. Brown fat is found in deeper tissue around organs that have good blood supply. White fat is how we store energy, and each white fat cell contains a single droplet of fat.
Brown fat is completely different. Brown fat cells contain many tiny fat droplets and many energy producing engines - called mitochondria. Scientists used to think that brown fat only came into play when our bodies needed energy to stay warm.
Now we know that brown fat is used when we’re cold and when we need to use our fat reserves for energy. White fat cells are converted to brown fat cells, through a process called “browning.”
Recent research by scientists in China has shown that when mice were treated with a fasting diet, contrary to expectations, the proportion of white fat increased as the mice tended to convert more of the brown fat into white fat which deposited below their skin.
Although more research is required, this research does suggest that the best way to lose weight is to eat a healthy diet that allows you to maintain a high activity level – not a super low calorie diet to increase weight loss. If you eating enough healthy calories it is easier to exercise (walking, riding a bike, swimming, playing with your kids) and overall just keep moving. Having a higher day long activity level triggers the conversion of white fat to brown fat to use for energy.
Starving yourself with an overly restrictive diet may have the opposite effect. Causing your body to store more white fat.
Brown fat may be the key to solving our nation’s obesity problem, but any concrete solutions will require more research. In the meantime let your brown fat work for you by eating a healthy diet, not starving yourself, with enough calories so you can stay active and keep your white fat from taking up residence around your middle!