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June 2023
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‘Brown’ Back in Town

After Eight-Month Sabbatical, Brown Fat News Returns



I often like to review past articles so as not to repeat myself.  Even though there’s a fairly constant flow of new health news developing, major media outlets are sometimes slow on the uptake, reporting on things that yours truly already knew about.

So when news “broke” about brown fat being better than white fat, I felt certain I’d covered it.  Why repeat what’s already been discussed here eight months ago, right? 

But as I combed through previous postings, there was one thing I didn’t cover that this most recent report uncovered.  Here’s a portion of what I wrote in that past article (note the bold type):

Sadly, white fat – called “white” fat because of the lesser amounts of mitochondria and capillaries compared to the amount found in “brown” fat – makes up the majority of fat cells found in our bodies, at least in our adult years…

The latest news throws something of a wrench into that statement, because researchers now say adults have more brown fat than originally thought. 

As reported in the April issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have found previously unforeseen brown fat deposits through PET scans, potentially paving the way for curbing diseases associated with obesity – even obesity itself.

Brown fat burns fat more efficiently than white fat does.  So much so, researchers say, that it burns as much as 400 to 500 more calories while at rest than the same person who has more white fat deposits.  Further, when fully activated, brown fat could burn as much as 10 pounds over the course of a year!

Now, all that’s well and good, but this research is entirely fruitless and falls on deaf ears if no one knows how to pump up brown fat stores and deflate white fat stores.  And when I first reported on this topic back in August, all the research seemed to point to some sort of pharmaceutical drug as a means to boost brown brawn.

Not exactly my idea of a good idea, thus not worthy of further reportage.

While researchers haven’t shied away from pill popping as a suitable means, there appears to be some natural forms for stimulating brown fat reserves.  And if you hate the cold, it’s not good news.  One of the ways researchers stimulated brown fat was by exposing the participants’ bodies to cold temperatures.  In other words, when participants reported being the coldest was when brown fat stores were the most active.  

Another way to stimulate more brown fat?  Stay thin.  When comparing obese adults to slim adults, the slender adults had more brown fat stores than the obese adults.  I don’t necessarily doubt this finding, but here’s one of those classic “chicken or the egg” cases:  Are the obese adults obese because they have less brown fat, or are they obese simply because of overeating and not exercising and that’s what’s caused them to have lesser amounts of brown fat?

As researchers determine how to stimulate the adult body’s brown fat reserves, the finding is “stimulative” (to use a frequent phrase we’ve all become familiar with in these economic times) in and of itself.  The topic of brown fat versus white fat has been in and out of the R&D phase for more than 40 years now, but when new evidence comes to the forefront, expect more discoveries to result.

And if history is any guide – considering this is the first we’ve heard about the topic in eight months – expect to hear more about brown fat around Christmastime.  In the spirit of the season, here’s hoping the news brings glad tidings of great joy (i.e. how to stimulate brown fat stores naturally through foods or environmental conditions, not pills permeating with side-effects).

(Note:  Speaking of pills permeating with side effects, one of the side effects of taking beta-blockers is diminished brown fat stores).

MSN Health & Fitness

Related Posts

  1. Fat: A Brown and White Issue: Efficiency of Calorie Burning Depends on It’s Color

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