Brown fat is good for our health – find out why here!
In some people, rolls of bacon bulge on the stomach, in others the muscles there appear as a six-pack. Even if it is not obvious in everyone: the fatty tissue is distributed over the entire body.
Mostly it is so-called white fatty tissue. “It has the task of storing fat and releasing the stored energy again when there is a lack of food,” says Dr. Murat Dağdelen. He is a specialist in plastic and aesthetic surgery and medical director of Diamond Aethetics in Düsseldorf. (Also read: Doctor explains ideal diet for burning fat and building muscle)
White fat stores energy, brown fat uses it
The body uses the white fat as an energy store for bad times. Actually a useful function: If there was once nothing to eat, the body could fall back on the fat. Today, however, many struggle with weight: Because food is always available, we tend to store fat, which we never break down. (Also worth reading: U.S. Marines Training Plan: How to Lose Fat Quickly and Gain Muscle Mass and Strength)
However, there is another type of fat tissue in the body that performs a different function. This is what is known as brown fat. This has a special property: “Brown fat cells consume energy and give it off in the form of heat,” says the expert.
Brown fat brings a bonus to health
What do the different types of fat mean for our health? “A body fat percentage that is too high – and what we mean here is white fat – is harmful to our body,” says Dağdelen. “The heart and blood vessels are damaged and the risk of a stroke or heart attack increases many times over.” (Also interesting: Lose Weight and Eating Healthy: You should eat foods in this order)
Brown fat, on the other hand, has a bonus for health – at least in view of our current way of life: it has a high mitochondrial density. “Mitochondria are also known as the cell’s powerhouse,” says the expert. “They convert glucose and fat into body heat while burning calories.”
It was discovered by chance that adults also have brown fat
Babies in particular have a high percentage of brown adipose tissue. It is around two to five percent of their body weight. The reason for this is that they have difficulty regulating their body temperature at first: they cannot shiver or move when they are cold. This is why the brown fat helps them maintain the temperature. (Also interesting: Too Much Sugar: These 7 Warning Signs To Take Seriously)
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In the course of life, the proportion of white adipose tissue increases. The brown fat, in turn, recedes. Scientists have long assumed that adults no longer have any brown adipose tissue. It was not until 2009 that American researchers discovered by chance that adults still have brown fat. The scientists looked for cancer cells using computed tomography and discovered the brown adipose tissue.
Adults have around 50 to 100 grams of brown fat
However, adults do not have a lot of brown fat: “Adults only have between 50 and 100 grams,” says Dağdelen. The brown fat tissue is mainly distributed under the collarbone, on the neck, in the neck and along the spine. “In general, the brown fat cells are mostly found in slim people and rarely or not at all in overweight people.” (Also worth reading: Muscle loss: 5 signs you are losing muscle instead of fat)
White fat is present everywhere in our body and is also responsible for unloved bacon rolls. You can stimulate the brown adipose tissue yourself to use up calories. “But for this it has to be available first,” says the expert. “That is why it is advisable to follow a healthy lifestyle and avoid being overweight.”
Cold helps activate brown fat
According to Dağdelen, exercise can help naturally convert white fat into brown fat. “If there are brown fat cells in the body, they can be activated by various measures, such as less heating or cold showers, in order to get the ‘body’s own heating’ going and to consume energy.” (Read also: Autumn work-out: 6 tips for training in the rainy season)
Scientists in Hamburg have also found out that cold can activate brown fat in one of them Animal experiment found: They fed two groups of mice in an identical manner. One group stayed in a cold chamber, the other mice at normal temperatures. The cold chamber mice stayed slim while the others put on weight.
One could of course assume that the mice simply used more calories in the cold to keep their body heat. But the researchers examined the mice. It turned out that the slim mice had developed a higher proportion of brown adipose tissue that burned energy instead of storing it in white adipose tissue.
It is difficult to measure the percentage of brown fat
By the way, you can hardly determine for yourself what proportion of brown fat is present in the body in everyday life. The proportion of brown fat can be measured by what is known as positron emission tomography (PET). “This is an imaging process that has been used since the 1990s to determine various diseases such as tumors,” says the expert. (Furthermore: 6 expert tips: How to boost your fat burning)
It is accordingly time-consuming to determine the proportion of brown fat. “It is therefore more advisable to forego such a status analysis and to start exercising directly to convert white into brown fat cells,” advises Dağdelen.