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What's the Difference Between White and Brown Fat?



What’s the difference between white fat and brown fat?


Fat has been villainized for years. The truth is that not all fat is created equal and your body needs fat to survive.


Unfortunately, more than 1/3 of Americans are obese, which has been linked to:


Type 2 diabetes

Heart Disease

Stroke

Certain types of cancer

Osteoporosis


What most people don’t know is there are different types of fat in our body with different functions. They secrete (or make) specific hormones that are important for your health and even impact your immune system.


2 Types of Fat Cells


Fat cells are also known as adipocytes and there are two different types of fat cells, white and brown fat. One type is more beneficial than the other and when you understand how they are different and how you can leverage them to work for you, it changes the perspective that fat is the villain.


What is White Fat?


White fat cells are found under the skin, around your internal organs and the main type of fat. It is typically stored in your thighs, hips and stomach areas. It is the largest reservoir for energy and acts as a buffer when you fall or in times of stress.


Most people think it’s bad to have too much white fat, however your body needs this. White fat cells have sensors for some important bodily functions include insulin, metabolism, immune, stress and sex hormones.


When there’s too much white fat, that can be a problem, especially the visceral fat which is around your organs. This can create an increase risk to diabetes, heart disease and metabolic dysfunction.


There is an increase in white fat, when you eat more calories than you burn. The type of calories also matters. Are you in the white fat danger zone? Measure your waist circumference, which can vary depending on ethnicity, according to Harvard Public School of Health guidelines. LINK


Ranges for healthy body for women are 15-30% and men 15-25%.


There are various methods to measure your body fat:


Air-displacement plethysmography

Bioelectrical impedance scales

Body Mass Index

Calipers

Hydrostatic weighing


What is Brown Fat?


Brown fat is a unique type of fat that helps you produce heat when you get cold. It contains more mitochondria (which gives this type of fat its brown color), than white fat, which are the “batteries” in brown fat that burn calories to produce heat.


Babies have a high amount of brown fat to keep them warm (you don’t see a baby shivering) and so do hibernating animals. Brown fat decreases as we age and can be found mainly in the neck and upper back region. Lean and metabolically healthy individuals tend to have more brown fat.


We want more brown fat since it keeps us warm and maintain a healthy weight.


How to Convert White Fat to Brown Fat?


Cold Showers – take a 2 minute cold shower daily even as little as 2 times a week.


Lower room temperature – lower the room temperature to 60 degrees for 60 minutes twice a day.


Exercise – high intensity interval training e.g. 5 minute warm-up followed by 1 minute of 85-95% heart peak at 6 intervals with 1 minute rest in between each interval.


Intermittent fasting – a specific study of intermittent fasting, which works great with a ketogenic diet in helping you get fat adapted to reduce the carb dependency.


There is emerging research showing how to increase and activate brown fat stores but in the meanwhile a healthy exercise of whole food, exercise, fasting and cold therapies are a great foundation to build upon to reap the benefits of healthy fat on your body.


references:


https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/waist-circumference-guidelines-for-different-ethnic-groups/

https://www.jci.org/articles/view/67803

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5746008/

https://www.nature.com/articles/cr2017126

https://www.nature.com/articles/cr2017126