Brown Fat Could Help You Burn More Fat and Lose Weight Faster

brown fat

Increasing Brown Fat Could Help You Burn More Fat and Lose Weight


Fat, or adipose tissue, in the human body exists in two forms – white fat or brown fat (1). White fat is more abundant and has more cons than pros. Brown fat, on the other hand, is less abundant and yet especially important. Brown fat is also known as beige fat, brite fat, or BAT (brown adipose tissue).


What is Brown Fat (BF)?


Brown fat consists of two types (2). The first is “classic,” which shares its origin with muscle cells. The second originates from the white fat that results from sympathetic stimulation, called beige or brite fat (i.e., brown in white fat).

Classic brown fat is abundantly present in newborns, representing almost 5% of their total body weight. Researchers initially speculated that brown fat was absent in adults, but recent studies revealed adults simply have lesser amounts of it.

BF is brown because it contains a high quantity of iron-rich mitochondria and is extremely helpful in tolerating cold because of its ability to cause non-shivering thermogenesis.

The hormone thermogenin is present in higher amounts in brown fat cells (3). It is the reason behind thermogenesis, as it causes the mitochondria to produce heat energy instead of ATP.


Brown Fat’s (BF) Role in Weight Loss


BF helps with weight loss in specific ways
(3a), but to summarize, it produces heat when it’s activated. This heat generation burns calories which reduces body fat.

According to the National Institute of Health, brown fat can also use blood sugar and fatty acids to generate heat by burning energy instead of storing fat. This results in better metabolism and weight loss.


Activating Brown Fat (BF) (4)


Researchers speculate that BF activates in various ways. The most significant is cold exposure. The surface area of skin exposed to cold is also necessary for BF activation.

Cold can even cause the conversion of white fat into brown fat. The problem with cold exposure is we do not know how cold or how long the exposure must be to cause the activation. Therefore, we need to explore other, less extreme ways to activate brown fat.

Other things that activate BF include (4a):

  • Melatonin: The pineal gland secretes melatonin, a compound that promotes BF’s ability to burn fat.
  • L-Arginine: In research studies, this amino acid demonstrated an ability to activate BF. Foods high in L-arginine include turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peanuts, spirulina, dairy (i.e., milk, cheese, and yogurt), cooked/boiled chickpeas (i.e., garbanzo beans), and lentils.


Food Ingredients that Activate Brown Fat


Based on evidence from research studies (5), the following ingredients can either activate BF or increase the browning of white fat:

  • Capsaicin and Capsinoids (e.g., active compounds in hot peppers)
  • Green Tea
  • Curcumin
  • Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) from Fatty Fish
  • Resveratrol


Related article:
2 Powerful Ingredients in Red Wine May Burn Fat and Aid Weight Loss


How to Increase the Beige and Brown Fat (BF) Reserves in the Body


There are no current supplements that specifically enhance brown fat production. However, some research suggests that thiazolidinediones medication for type 2 diabetes may encourage its production.

Additionally, the National Institute of Health reported on a study where healthy participants saw an increase in brown fat after using mirabegron. It is a medication for overactive bladders.

Altering habits and eating a healthy diet can increase beige and brown fat.

Some brown fat (BF) production boosters are (6):


Chill and relax:
Stress causes the secretion of stress hormones that block the activation or production of brite (i.e., beige) fat. Managing stress lowers the stress hormones in the blood and helps activate BF. 

Do not overeat, but do not undereat either: Calculating how much to eat for your specific body can be tricky. The general rule is one should not overeat nor undereat. Maintaining a well-balanced diet regulates the amount of white fat the body accumulates and increases brite fat.

Organic apples (with the skin): Apple skin contains a compound called ursolic acid. Researchers from a 2012 study with mice observed ursolic’s ability to increase BF. Ursolic acid is also present in foods and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, lavender leaves, peppermint, holy basil, oregano, pears, bilberries, apples (with the skin), prunes, and cranberries.

Herbs with thymol: Thymol is a compound found in herbs like thyme and oregano that helps with the browning of white fat cells, as witnessed in a research study published in 2017.

Cold exposure: As discussed earlier, cold exposure activates brown fat. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed that when exposed to cold, young men lost more calories as compared to when they were in warm temperatures (7). Exercising in a colder environment may help turn white fat into brown fat.

Boost melatonin production: Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. It is essential for the health of the body and the recruitment of BF.

To boost the natural production of melatonin, one should lessen screen time before sleeping, get proper sunlight exposure during the day, and eat melatonin-enhancing foods such as almonds, tarts, cherries, cardamom, and more. For the recruitment of brown fat, melatonin supplements may not work as efficiently as natural melatonin.

Regular exercise: Regular exercise is immensely helpful in losing weight and staying healthy. Additionally, the human body produces irisin during exercise, a hormone capable of getting white fat cells to burn heat like brown fat cells (6a).

In addition, the National Institute of Health states that exercise may stimulate irisin to instruct the brown fat to use energy (6b).


Final Thoughts


Considering all we have learned, brown fat has a place in our health. Increasing it helps us lose weight and improves our health. Our lifestyle habits will determine how much brown fat we accumulate and use.

Working with a doctor to help address specific physiological issues could also help increase brown fat.

If you found this article helpful, would you consider sharing it? We would greatly appreciate it!

References

1. Cinti, S. The adipose organ. in Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids vol. 73 9–15 (Churchill Livingstone, 2005).; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15936182/

1. Mitochondria in White, Brown, and Beige Adipocytes; Miroslava Cedikova, Michaela Kripnerová; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814709/

2. Enerbäck, S. The Origins of Brown Adipose Tissue. New England Journal of Medicine 360, 2021–2023 (2009).; https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMcibr0809610

2. Stem Cells Int. 2016; 2016: 6067349; Mitochondria in White, Brown, and Beige Adipocytes; Miroslava Cedikova, Michaela Kripnerová, Jana Dvorakova, et al.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814709/

2. Brown and beige fat: Physiological roles beyond heat-generation; Shingo Kajimura,1 Bruce M. Spiegelman,2 and Patrick Seale3; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4613812/

3. Thermogenin; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermogenin

3. Thermogenin; Thermogenin or uncoupling protein (UCP) is a 33kDa dimericprotein found in the inner mitochondrial membrane of brown adipose tissue which supplies heat by allowing the dissipation of the proton gradient without ATP synthesis; https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/thermogenin

3a. Mitochondrial uncoupling proteins: from mitochondria to the regulation of energy balance; Daniel Ricquier and Frédéric Bouillaud; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2270181/

3a. Mitochondrial proton and electron leaks; Martin Jastroch, Ajit S. Divakaruni, Shona Mookerjee, Jason R. Treberg, and Martin D. Brand
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122475/

3a. Nonshivering Thermogenesis; Nonshivering thermogenesis is defined as “heat production due to metabolic energy transformation by processes that do not involve contraction of skeletal muscles” (IUPS Thermal Commission, 2001), which mainly involves burning of brown adipose tissue, triggered by sympathetic activity.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/nonshivering-thermogenesis

3a. September 10, 2019; How bf improves metabolism; https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism

4. What Is BF? Can It Help Your Body Lose Weight? | INTEGRIS. https://integrisok.com/resources/on-your-health/2019/september/what-is-brown-fat.

4a. Melatonin helps control weight gain as it stimulates the appearance of ‘beige fat’ that can burn calories instead of storing them, study suggests
Date: September 25, 2013; Source: University of Granada; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130925091745.htm

4a. Significance and application of melatonin in the regulation of brown adipose tissue metabolism: relation to human obesity
D-X Tan 1, L C Manchester, L Fuentes-Broto, S D Paredes, R J Reiter; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20557470/

4a.Melatonin deficiency decreases brown adipose tissue acute thermogenic capacity in rats measured by 18F-FDG PET
Bruno Halpern, Marcio C. Mancini, et al.; https://dmsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13098-020-00589-1#:~:text=Melatonin%20has%20been%20shown%20to,bodyweight%20reduction%20and%20glycemic%20improvement.

4a. Melatonin Increases Brown Adipose Tissue Volume and Activity in Patients With Melatonin Deficiency: A Proof-of-Concept Study
Bruno Halpern; Marcio C. Mancini; https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/68/5/947

4a. Dietary l-Arginine Supplementation Reduces White Fat Gain and Enhances Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat Masses in Diet-Induced Obese Rats1–3
Wenjuan Jobgen, Cynthia J. Meininger; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151442/

4a. Regulation of brown adipose tissue development and white fat reduction by L-arginine
Zhenlong Wu 1, Michael C Satterfield, Fuller W Bazer, Guoyao Wu; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23075933/

5. Front Physiol. 2018; 9: 1954.; Food Ingredients Involved in White-to-Brown Adipose Tissue Conversion and in Calorie Burning
Hamza El Hadi, Angelo Di Vincenzo, et al.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6336830/

6. BFat and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know. https://www.womansworld.com/posts/diets/brown-fat-128932.

6. Supercharging BF to Battle Obesity; By Melinda Wenner Moyer on July 15, 2014; Scientific American; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/supercharging-brown-fat-to-battle-obesity/

6. 5 Ways to Increase Your BF To Burn More Calories; By Meghan Rabbitt; Feb 6, 2015; Prevention; https://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/a20444117/how-to-increase-brown-fat/

6a. Irisin: A Hope in Understanding and Managing Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome; Lidia I. Arhire1,2, Laura Mihalache; https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2019.00524/full

6a. Jedrychowski, M. P. et al.; Detection and quantitation of circulating human irisin by tandem mass spectrometry. Cell Metabolism 22, 734–740 (2015); https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413115003927

6b. February 24, 2014; Shivering Triggers Brown Fat to Produce Heat and Burn Calories; https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/shivering-triggers-brown-fat-produce-heat-burn-calories

7. Van der Lans, A. A. J. J. et al. Cold acclimation recruits human BF and increases nonshivering thermogenesis. Journal of Clinical Investigation 123, 3395–3403 (2013).
Cannon, B. & Nedergaard, J.

7. Yes, even human BF is on fire! Journal of Clinical Investigation vol. 122 486–489 (2012); https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23867626/

Ursolic Acid Increases Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat and Decreases Diet-Induced Obesity, Glucose Intolerance and Fatty Liver Disease
Steven D. Kunkel, Christopher J. Elmore, Kale S. Bongers,;PLoS One. 2012; 7(6): e39332; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3379974/

Ursolic Acid Increases Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat and Decreases Diet-Induced Obesity, Glucose Intolerance and Fatty Liver Disease; http://www.emmyon.com/research/ursolic-acid-increases-skeletal-muscle/

Activating beige fat in humans could combat obesity; Date: December 16, 2015; Source: Georgia State University; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151216105703.htm

Brown and Brite: The Fat Soldiers in the Anti-obesity Fight; Shireesh Srivastava1 and Richard L. Veech2*; Front. Physiol., 30 January 2019
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00038/full#B56

New Study: Two Weird Foods That Could Rebuild Muscle As You Age; by Christina Simonetti; https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/new-study-two-weird-foods-could-rebuild-muscle-you-age/

Starving prostate cancer with what you eat: Apple peels, red grapes, turmeric; Date: June 6, 2017; Source: the University of Texas at Austin; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170606112750.htm

Fat-Fighting Is Part of the Apple’s Peel; By Ann Lukits; July 2, 2012; https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304830704577497111487022018

10 Healthy High-Arginine Foods; Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D., Nutrition — Written by Rena Goldman — Updated on June 14, 2019
https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-high-arginine-foods

Thiazolidinediones; https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/thiazolidinediones.htmlTop Foods High in Arginine; https://www.webmd.com/diet/top-foods-high-in-arginine#1

Giving BF a boost to fight Type 2 diabetes; Published on: June 04, 2021
Increasing a protein concentrated in brown adipose tissue remodels white adipose tissue to lower diabetes risk, study suggests; https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/newsroom/articles/year-2021/brown-fat-a-boost-to-fight-type-2-diabetes.html

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