We are used to thinking that body fat is bad. But for scientists, fat is the key to some interesting clues about weight and body shape - specifically, brown fat.
What we know about white fat is that it stores excess calories so the body can access it when hungry, and it releases hormones that help control metabolism.
But the brown, once thought to disappear from the body when we reached adolescence, has scientists excited. Not only do adults have it, but thin people have more than overweight people. When stimulated, it can burn calories.
Research focuses on taking advantage of brown fat to burn calories and eliminate obesity.
What is brown fat?
Also known as brown adipose tissue, it is a special type of fat that burns energy and glucose to generate heat. It keeps small animals and babies warm, and animals with lots of brown fat are protected from diabetes and obesity.
"It's a small amount of fat, typically around the neck area, that makes up 1% of the fat in the body," says weight loss specialist Dr. Peter Vash, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Center for Health Sciences at UCLA “He's metabolically much more active. Burns calories to create heat. It is found around the neck area to help warm the blood vessels and arteries that carry blood to the brain. Babies are born with much more brown fat, but the percentage decreases with age ”.
But it doesn't just generate heat
New research finds that brown fat may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. A new study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that it may help filter out excess amino acids that can increase the risk of those health problems. The findings may help lead to new treatments.
How it works with metabolism
Dr. Paul Lee, a former researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said the regulation of brown fat and its relationship to metabolism in humans is not yet clear.
Research now shows that it can be manipulated by room temperature. In one study, mild exposure to cold stimulated brown fat activity, while mild exposure to heat suppressed it. Lee explains that the increase in brown fat was accompanied by an improvement in insulin sensitivity and the rate of energy burning after the meal.
In the study, five men between the ages of 19 and 23 were tracked for four months. Volunteers participated in the usual activities during the day, but slept in a private room in which the air temperature varied monthly between 19 and 27 degrees C. Temperature detectors monitored the exposed temperature of each volunteer, and at the end of each month, the researchers measured brown fat and energy metabolism and found that mild cold increased the men's brown fat.
While promising, sleeping in cold temperatures or sitting in an ice bath every night is not a realistic approach to losing weight, says Vash.
"Yes, your body will stimulate brown fat in an attempt to keep the blood going to the brain warm (this is essentially what your body does when it trembles), but this is not an effective way to lose weight in the long term," he said. . "A 20 minute ice bath is only a 50 calorie burn, maximum."
If you can turn white fat (shown above right) to brown (left), you essentially change a storage area in a combustion furnace.
“However, we still don't have a practical way to turn white fat brown. There is the potential for a drug or treatment in the future that will help convert it to help people lose weight, ”says Vash. "The process of stimulating it effectively and therapeutically has yet to be discovered."
The future of brown fat
Scientists are looking for a drug that can increase brown fat. But it won't be a miracle pill. You will still have to combine it with a healthy diet and exercise to burn that fat.
"A more realistic approach to losing weight is to encourage people to eat less, drink less alcohol, and exercise more," says Vash. This is a much more effective way to lose weight, at least until a medical approach to turning white fat into brown is available.
Until a fat pill is invented, scientists speculate on ways to speed up the burning of brown fat, such as turning down the thermostat in your home in cold weather and spending time outside in the cold. Studies show that people who work outside have higher brown fat activity than average, so why not take advantage of it and spend some time relaxing? Maybe you could increase your brown fat while you wait for the science to catch up.
Jennifer Nelson, Article in English