Did you know that body fat can be either white or brown and that one color may be better for your health than the other? When we fail to exercise or we consume calories in excess, the surplus calories are stored as white fat, which insulates and cushions the body and provides energy reserves. Brown adipose tissue (BAT), found largely in newborns and hibernating animals, is composed of mitochondria-rich fat cells that maintain body temperature by generating body heat. Obesity, it seems, may not be determined solely by weight but by the amount of adipose tissue or white fat cells (WAT) our bodies contain. Undesirable WAT that builds up around our hips and thighs and especially our waists puts us at risk for developing metabolic syndrome, which can lead to a host of chronic diseases. BAT is found mainly around the front and back of our neck and shoulder areas. So is it as simple as BAT is healthy and WAT is unhealthy? Not really. What matters most is how much you have of each and where it’s located.
WAT is metabolically active tissue that is necessary for survival. It’s not only a thermal insulator, it’s a major endocrine organ that produces estrogen and leptin, which regulates appetite and helps control metabolism. While our bodies can contain 20 or more pounds of WAT, we may have only 2 or 3 ounces of BAT. Scientists say that long term mild cold exposure may be one way to stimulate brown fat growth and activity. We have the most BAT when we are born, as babies are unable to shiver to keep their little bodies warm in cold temperatures. As we age, our brown fat reserves decrease and ironically, younger, thinner people have more BAT than older heavier people. Emerging science appears to show that beige may be the new brown in the fat color wars and may be a secret to maintaining a healthier weight.
The potential of cold temperature exposure to convert white fat to brown, or at the very least beige, could aid weight loss by boosting our body’s fat burning power. Warm indoor temperatures in winter may contribute to obesity by suppressing brown fat activity, while spending time outdoors in colder weather may aid weight loss by stimulating brown fat to provide the energy to keep us warm. One other way to stimulate brown fat may be through the immune system. A study published in the scientific journal Cell showed that when WAT was exposed to cold, the immune system responded by releasing signaling proteins that, in turn, drew macrophages into white fat cells. Once inside the cells, macrophages produced catecholamines, which turned white cells beige, ramping up their energy needs and increasing their fat burning potential.
Lower temperatures, it appears, can significantly affect the amount of our overall energy expenditure and may benefit glucose and energy metabolism. An increase in brown fat activity correlates to an improvement in insulin sensitivity and the rate at which we burn energy. Could losing or maintaining weight be as easy as turning down the thermostat or spending time outdoors in the wintertime? The possibility of increasing brown fat reserves represents a potential for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If just sitting in cooler temperatures can help the body burn an extra few hundred calories a day, it would seem that a few shivers is a small price to pay for the potential health benefits.
The following products help support healthy body composition:UltraLean Body Composition Formula (Vanilla) by BioGenesis Nutraceuticals – This powdered functional food provides macro and micronutrients for improved body composition and efficient fat metabolism. Also available in chocolate, strawberry, vegan vanilla, and vegan chocolate. CLA by Ortho Molecular – The natural action of Conjugated Linoleic Acid supports reducing body fat while increasing muscle tone when combined with a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Gluten and soy free. Endo Trim by Designs for Health – This comprehensive endocrine balancing formula provides nutritional support for fat loss and healthy body composition. Non-GMO formula. Gluten and soy free. VFM-100™ by Complementary Prescriptions – In conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, this product helps to maintain healthy glucose levels and helps to reduce body weight, waist circumference and abdominal fat. Contains soy.