Is the Key to Weight Loss Activating Brown Fat?


Fats in the human body are different.  One difference is based upon concentration of mitochondria, the energy-producing compartments of cells.  When there are few mitochondria in fat cells, fat appears white or light yellow, and where there are many, it appears brown.

In adults, most fat is white, consisting of fat stored as triglycerides in a single compartment.  Brown fat cells contain multiple compartments.  Triglycerides are localized in smaller droplets that surround numerous mitochondria.  An extensive blood vessel network and the mitochondrial density give the tissue a brown appearance and increase its capacity to burn fat and give off heat.

Brown fat doesn’t easily metabolize fatty acids to ATP (chemical energy).  Increased heat production is caused by this inefficiency.  Brown fat has a major part in diet-induced thermogenesis.

One physiologic difference between those who are obese and thin is how much food is immediately converted to heat.  Research shows that in lean people, a meal might stipulate up to a 40 percent increase in this diet-induced thermogenesis.  Overweight individuals frequently display only a 10 percent or less increase.  Food energy is stored instead of being converted into heat, as it is in lean individuals.

Sensitivity to insulin is a factor for decreased thermogenesis in overweight individuals and the amount of brown fat is important.  Evidence supports that lean people have a higher ratio of brown-to-white fat than overweight individuals.  The amount of brown fat in modern humans is extremely small (about 0.5 percent to 5 percent of total body weight), but because of its profound effect on diet-induced thermogenesis, as little as 1 ounce of brown fat in an individual’s body could make the difference between maintaining body weight or putting on an extra 10 pounds every year.

New Data:
In an effort to discover whether brown fat activation alters whole-body blood sugar control and sensitivity to insulin in humans, researchers at the University of Texas studied 7 brown fat positive (BAT+) men and 5 brown fat negative (BAT-) men under room temperature conditions, after prolonged (5-8 hours) cold exposure (CE).  The two groups were similar in age, BMI, and adiposity.

It was discovered that cold exposure significantly increased resting energy expenditure, whole-body blood sugar utilization, and insulin sensitivity in the BAT+ group only. The results supported that brown fat plays a significant role in the development of obesity and diabetes in humans.

An increase in the activity of brown fat could help people lose weight and/or control their blood sugar levels.  There’s research emerging which shows that improving insulin sensitivity, exercise, and dietary compounds such as capsaicin from red peppers, and gingerol from ginger might activate brown fat.  One recommendation made to activate brown fat is to use PGX, the revolutionary dietary fiber matrix clinically proven to improve blood sugar and help people achieve their ideal body weight.  This may directly influence brown fat activity by increasing insulin sensitivity throughout the body, which is a major factor for most people with weight struggles.


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