When most people hear the word “fat”, they immediately think of something unhealthy and the extra fat they might have and want to get rid of. Their minds go directly to the extra padding they have around their hips and midsection or the love handles they wish didn’t exist. However, there are several different kinds of fat and different types of fat cells. Not all of them are bad.
You’re going to explore the different kinds of fat and why some of them might be healthy. While it might sound counter-intuitive, we’ll look at how brown fat cells help you lose weight and regulate your blood sugar (glucose) and fat metabolism.
The Three Types of Body Fat
First, let’s look at the three types of body fat cells that we as humans have.
White Fat Cells
- Responsible for storing energy for later use
- Used as insulation for vital internal organs such as the liver and kidneys
- Most of the visible fat on your body, such as love handles, consists of white fat
- Excess white fat can cause serious health conditions such as obesity.
Beige Fat Cells
- A cross between white and brown fat cells
- Contain various properties of both types of fat
- Used to burn up stored energy from white fat cells
- When converting white fat cells to brown, these beige fat cells burn calories.
Brown Fat Cells
Brown Fat vs White Fat
Because white and brown fat cells are the two most common types of fat, we’re going to focus on these.
White fat is the most abundant type of fat in the body, and it’s also the only type of fat that you can visibly see and feel. White fat is the extra cushion in your stomach, hips, and other places on your body.
While white fat is important and helps protect vital organs and keep you warm, too much white fat is dangerous. There are many different health issues that arise such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions that can stem from having too much white fat.
What is Brown Fat?
On the other hand, brown fat helps to burn off white fat by using it as energy. Your brain fat cells are functioning right before your body activates thermogenesis (shivering), they use energy and produce heat. It’s this act of shivering that warms your body and burns fat, and your brown fat cells are responsible by breaking down glucose and fatty acids.
The composition of brown fat is very different from white fat. Whereas white fat consists mostly of fatty acids known as lipids, brown fat consists mostly of mitochondria. The high iron content in brown fat cells gives them their darker color. Brown fat cells also tend to be smaller and are located deeper inside the body.
Common Health Conditions that can Affect Brown Fat Cells
Unfortunately, several conditions can impede your ability to produce brown fat cells.
- Lipodystrophy – Makes it difficult for your body to create and store any type of fat.
- Congenital Leptin Deficiency – Makes your body unable to produce enough leptin, a hormone crucial to maintain your body weight.
- Lipoma – While not a major health issue, lipomas are unsightly pockets of fat cells just below the skin.
- Anorexia Nervosa – Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where individuals who are concerned about weight gain essentially starve themselves. People who are anorexic are low in brown fat cells, white fat, and many other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
6 Ways to Naturally Increase and Activate Brown Fat Cells to Stimulate Weight Loss
Everyone is familiar with ways to increase the amount of white fat in the body, but what about brown fat? There are several ways you can increase the amount of brown fat in your body and accelerate weight loss.
Cold Temperature is Your Friend
Brown fat cells get activated when your body is exposed to cold temperatures. When your body senses that its internal temperature is getting too cold, brown fat cells are activated by the sympathetic nervous system. When activated, brown fat cells burn stored energy in the form of white fat to create heat to warm your body up. Because it’s doing this by burning white fat, it’s burning calories, thereby helping you on your weight loss journey.
Therefore, the most surefire way to activate brown fat cells is by deliberately exposing yourself to cold temperatures. You can do this by going outside at cooler times of the day and night. Other ways to expose yourself to cold temperatures are by swimming in cold water or take a cold shower.
Balance Your Scales through a well-balanced Diet
In addition to getting activated by cold temperatures, brown fat cells are activated when you eat certain foods resulting in thermogenesis. Here are some of the best types of foods to eat if you want to maintain a healthy diet while activating your brown fat cells:
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Cooked vegetables without oils and additives
- Whole grains rather than processed ones.
- Milk and other low-fat dairy products.
- Lean meat that has an abundance of iron, such as red meat
- Seeds and Nuts
- A certain cooking spice, such as turmeric, has a high concentration of curcumin, which may be instrumental in brown fat activation
Remember, because brown fat cells consist mostly of iron, dietary iron mineral should be at the forefront of your diet.
It’s important to note that any time you start a diet, you should be realistic and practical. While cutting unhealthy foods out cold turkey is the best path to health, it’s not the easiest. It’s ok to enjoy some of the less healthy comfort foods and sweets you normally eat, but you should eat them less often. Most of your diet should consist of the foods listed above if you want to activate your brown fat cells.
Why Iron is One of the Best Supplements to Increase Brown Fat
While many foods and supplements are great for losing weight, iron is one of the most important components in brown fat cell activation. Brown fat cells are made of countless mitochondria, which utilize positively charged iron (cations). When in erythrocytes, iron is a key player in transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, including your muscles, helping you burn more fat by exercise. Additionally, people who are obese tend to have iron deficiency anemia.
You can maximize the amount of iron in your system by eating lean red meat, beans, leafy vegetables, seafood, and whole grains. You can also try iron supplements or iron IV therapy designed to get iron electrolytes directly into your bloodstream and transported throughout your body.
Stimulate the Creation of Brown Fat Cells through Exercise
As with any type of weight loss journey, exercising is one of the best things you can do. Not only will exercise help burn white fat and calories, but it also helps stimulate the production of brown fat cells.
Natural Drinks that boost Brown Fat
In addition to eating healthier foods, you can also try drinking certain beverages and liquids to increase and activate the brown fat in your body. Specifically, you should drink beverages high in caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, and green tea extract. Because energy drinks also tend to contain sugar and a considerable amount of caffeine, green tea is your best bet.
Green tea and green tea extract are two of the best options for activating your brown fat cells. They perform the same function as the foods listed above by triggering thermogenesis.
Convert White Fat Cells to Brown Fat Cells with Brown Fat Pills
You may also be able to increase the amount of brown fat in your body is by converting white fat cells. White fat cells are far more numerous than brown fat cells, which means that if you can convert them, you’ll never have a brown fat shortage again.
One possible way to convert white fat cells to brown ones is by ingesting brown fat pills. Brown fat pills may increase the number of mitochondria in white fat, thereby converting them to beige or brown fat cells.
Here are some pills and supplements for white fat conversion:
- Java Burn
- Tea Burn
However, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that these brown fat pills and supplements help with weight loss, there is not yet scientific proof to back up these claims.
If you’re looking for weight loss medication that works, try FDA-approved Wegovy (semaglutide) injections which are scientifically approved.
As you can see, fat isn’t always the enemy. It may actually be one of the best natural tools in your body for weight loss and to combat obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. While your body will always have some brown fat cells, you may be able to increase that number and make them more active by following the dietary and lifestyle tips in this article.
You can also enroll in a medical weight loss program, a safe and proven method for losing weight. Medical weight loss is where you work one-on-one with a medical professional to lose weight and keep it off for good.
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- Wein H, Contie V, editors. Drug activates brown fat, improves glucose metabolism in healthy women. National Institutes of Health. Published: February 4, 2020. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/drug-activates-brown-fat-improves-glucose-metabolism-healthy-women