Brown Fat? What the Heck is That? It May Just Be Your New Best Friend…

By Emily Murray

When most of us hear the word “fat,” several images likely come to mind or the need to hit the gym suddenly takes over. But did you know that there are different types of fat and that it’s color indicates what kind of fat it is?

In an article published today on the NYTimes site, this concept which was the focus of a recent study, was explained in more detail. Essentially brown fat (which is both the name and the color) effectively burns calories and when you become cold, it can actually suck out the fat from the body to fuel it! Now that doesn’t sound like the type of fat we are used to right?

Additionally, as mentioned in the study, another form of this brown fat can actually come from white fat during exercise.

If this sounds like an amazing concept to build a new weight loss product, you aren’t the first to think of this and if there is some magical way to get brown fat to function without having the put the person in extreme conditions, then this would be truly amazing.

Questions of course are being raised in the wake of the newly released study information and as noted in the article, one of the lead authors in the paper (Dr. Andre Carpentier), addresses some of these.

“We have proof that this tissue burns calories — yes, indeed it does,” Dr. Carpentier said. “But what happens over the long term is unknown,” she is quoted as saying.

If there was a way to effectively switch on the brown fat, it is entirely possible that people would increase their calorie intake in order to compensate for the loss, she acknowledges. This would of course, not produce the effect that many of us hoping for a natural and effective weight loss method would want.

Actually, what may be even more surprising still is that until recently, scientists did not even know that adults had brown fat in their bodies. When researchers studied adults recently they were able to identify it’s presence which was formerly believed to be found only in mice and human babies. The detection of this kind of fat was discovered by observing how fat absorbed glucose in patients in cold rooms and thin hospital gowns as part of the test.

The subjects in the study were men and when they were chilled to the point of actually shivering, their metabolic rates increased by 80 percent and the brown fat acted to keep them warm while burning an average of 250 calories.

While this is a great discovery, it is only at it’s very beginning. There are many questions left unanswered but this appears to be a huge step in understanding more about how fat functions in the body.