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Brown Fat vs. White Fat

Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT)

 

Brown fat —also called brown adipose tissue (BAT)— is one of two primary types of fat in our body, the other being the familiar “white” or “yellow” fat we pile on when we gain weight.

Brown fat is turned on by cold temperatures, exercise, and some foods. When our body gets cold, these BAT tissues kick into gear to warm up our body. Cold activates BAT metabolically to burn white adipose fat to keep our core body temperature from dropping.

Simply put, white adipose fat cells merely store extra calories as overflowing bellies, muffin tops, love handles and plump thighs.

BAT  is widely believed to help maintain our core temperature by burning our fat reserves (white fat) to generate body heat. BAT prompts white adipose fat cells to burn and produce heat. That’s how the newborn babies maintain their body temperature.

Brown fat gets its distinctive color from its uniquely dense mitochondria, the tiny cellular power plants that convert oxygen and food energy into cell energy or, in the case of brown fat, heat. White fat needs more mitochondria, and it needs the special mitochondrial protein UCP1, found only in BAT.

Where in our body is Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT)

We’re all born with brown fat (BAT) —concentrated around our sternum, collar bones, neck, shoulders, and back.

Until recently most doctors believed that adults had no BAT and that it disappeared in childhood. But a few years back, researchers found that brown fat is also present in adults, but it takes up very little space.

Researchers looked for BAT in the radiology scans of adults and found small collections of brown fat in the neck and around the collarbones that tend to show up in younger, leaner adults, while these collections were scarce in older, obese individuals. Women have detectable BAT twice as often as men.

 

BAT and weight loss

Because of its fat-burning properties, BAT has recently become the focus of intense scientific research. In adults, BAT activates within minutes when the body loses heat.

Temperatures below 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) triggers BAT.

Our muscles have a similar activation also when exposed to cold called mitochondrial decoupling that “up-regulates” metabolism and heat production.

Of course, obesity is not a disease of insufficient BAT, but rather one of over consumption and reduced calorie expenditure.

Brown fat is not a cure for obesity, but burning off a hundred or more extra calories a day could add up. Nevertheless, obese individuals will simply eat their way through and remain obese unless their mindset and dietary lifestyle change.

 

How much energy does brown fat burn?

Research shows that normal-weight people who sit in a 590F (150C) room for two hours in summer clothing chew up at a rate of 100 to 250 calories per day.

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