Emerging science looks at how brown fat cells could play a role in the fight against obesity.
You probably never paid any mind to the color of your fat—or, frankly, even knew there were different colors at all. But new research is saying that the color of your fat cells could be making a difference in how much fat your body can burn. White fat cells, which can cause an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other health problems, make up the majority of your body fat. Brown fat, however, is metabolically active, which leads to an increase in the number of calories you body burns.
Researchers from McGill University took this knowledge a little further to see if they could adapt white fat cells to behave like their brown counterparts. In their study published in the journal Genes & Development, the researchers singled out a protein that is responsible for regulating the activity of fat cells—essentially telling white fat cells that they should store excess fat. By breeding mice that were deficient in this particular protein, they were able to compare the fat storage and weight gain between these adapted mice and normal mice. After feeding the mice a high-fat, junk-food-like diet for 14 weeks, the study authors found that while normal mice gained weight as expected, the protein-deficient mice stayed thin and did not experience any increase in insulin or triglycerides. Basically, the white fat cells in these lab-bred mice were able to actively burn calories much like that of brown fat. Not only that, but these mice also had smaller white fat cells and less white fat tissue overall.
While the research is still emerging on the “browning” of fat cells, there are a few things you can do now to burn more fat throughout the day.
Increase your exposure to cool temperatures.
Brown fat is stimulated when your body temperature drops. Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell that are present in greater numbers in brown fat, burn calories to produce heat and make you feel warm again.
Exercise. It’s that simple.
Continuous and regular exercise stimulates the production of more brown fat cells, which in turn allows for more calories to be burned throughout the day.
Munch on an apple.
Apple skins have a substance called ursolic acid, which increases the production of brown fat. In so doing, it helps reduce the risk of obesity, as well as improve glucose tolerance by the body. Other foods that contain the same ursolic acid include oregano, thyme, lavender, prunes, blueberries, cranberries, and plums.