Did you ever think that fat could itself help burn extra calories. Fat in excess of the body’s need is used to produce heat by what is called as the brown adipose tissue. This can be one of the most promising natural ways to avoid excess fat deposition. But unfortunately this brown adipose tissue diminishes with age and its activity needs to be restored such that it can exert its calorie burning effect.
First let us understand all about brown adipose tissue , its origin and function. The reservoir where all the fat deposits lie in the body is called adipose tissue. This tissue acts as cushion and insulates the body. There are mainly two types of adipose tissue:
- White Adipose tissue – There are two different types of fat cells that are known as white and brown fat and the white fat is probably most known to people because the white fat cells can store lots of energy. When you consume excess calories that extra energy goes to your white fat cells and is stored at lipids. And over time these white fat cells increase in size and they also increase in number. They are the ones that you would sort of point to when you look at someone who is obese or overweight, they have lots of white fat.
- Brown Adipose tissue (BAT) – Brown fat on the other hand, its function is to generate heat to use that lipid and turn that chemical energy into heat. This process consumes a lot of energy. Human newborns have an estimated 30 g of BAT, representing 1% of body weight. As children leave the first decade of life, the wide distribution of BAT declines.
In babies the BAT tissue is known to protect them from cold. In cold weather, we tend to shiver and this leads to generation of heat (thermogenesis) which in turn brings body temperatures back to normal. This effect is facilitated by the BAT tissue in babies allowing them to handle the stress occurring due to cold weather,
The brown adipose tissue seems to impart special advantages such as:
- Ability to to survive and especially to be active during periods of cold,
- Ability to survive the cold stress of birth, and
- Promoting our survival on diets low in essential macronutrients
Earlier it was thought that only brown adipose tissue is present only from birth to childhood with little or no activity persisting into adulthood. But more recent data has shown that adults have brown adipose tissue also, some more than others. There is this correlation that obese individuals have less brown adipose tissue and individuals that are lean tend to have more. There’s this correlation with obesity and diabetes as well where individuals that are protected against diabetes tend to have more brown fat.
It is conceivable that BAT activity might reduce the risk of developing obesity since fat stores are used for thermogenesis, and might have value in weight reduction.
In the wake of increasing obesity epidemic , researchers are looking for ways to stimulate this brown adipose tissue. One way to do this would be to re-program the fat cells and the other way is to stimulate these cells. They need to be activated and so typically they are activated with cold or they can be activated with drugs.
If activation of BAT tissue is successful, then it can emerge as one of the most promising anti-obesity therapy.
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Dr. Pooja, Senior Nutritionist @eKincare.com