The Jazz in Our Body. White, Brown and Beige Fat.

Fat comes in many different shades, each with unique properties and health implications.
Very simply put, visceral white fat stores energy  and  is bad for your health as is involved in insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. It also seems to be quite responsive to exercise, which is good news. Subcutaneous white fat seems to be neutral but is also “stubborn” and “resists” any exercise. Brown Fat is the good one, it burns energy rather than storing it. Another good fat is the Beige Fat, a mixture of white and brown fat.
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Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels
White Fat, Brown Fat, Beige Fat… This is beginning to sound like jazz.
Many of us would like to hear a simple pop song “An apple a day keeps some of the fat away” or maybe some hard rock “Eat what you want 5 days and almost nothing for 2 days and you’ll kill that fat”.
But when it comes to the chemistry in our body, things get much more complicated.I smile bitterly when I read that “weight gain is caused by a fundamental energy imbalance, when energy intake from food chronically exceeds energy expended by physical activity and metabolic processes”.
A therapy for weight loss must, of course, involve less food intake and more exercise. But by far is not enough. Anyone who’s been through a diet knows this too well.
Humans have evolved incredible complex biological mechanisms to acquire and defend their energy stores.
A lot of hormones are involved in fact in human metabolism and I don’t know how many other chemicals. Not to mention the genome and the mechanisms that activate/ deactivate genes.
Besides some “wheels” in this mechanism can malfunction, as a result of some environment changes, because of age or I don’t know what else.For years now, scientists have been studying the brown fat.
Babies have it, to keep them warm. This explains why babies survived after hours spent in freezing cold.
Initially, researchers thought adults had no brown fat at all. But, surprise, adults have some of it too and it’s playing an important role in heat production and energy metabolism.
Another surprise, brown fat provides a natural defense against obesity: people with greater quantities of brown fat have a lower body weights.

Following a severe diet makes things worse.
In normal weight people, brown fat burns energy while white fat tends to store energy. But in obese people following a calorie restricted diet, brown fat can become largely inactive which means both types of fat become organs of energy storage making weight loss extremely difficult.
It’s like you’re driving a car, and the harder you press on the accelerator, the harder an invisible foot presses on the brake.
While this phenomenon is known, scientists at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of NSW have found a scientific explanation. They used mice in their research but the mechanism discovered is probably similar in humans.
They have shown that the neurotransmitter Neuropeptide Y (NPY), known for stimulating appetite, also plays a major role in controlling whether the body burns or conserves energy.
“High levels of NPY signal to the body that it is in ‘starvation mode’ and should try to replenish and conserve as much energy as possible. As a result, the body reduces processes that are not absolutely necessary for survival.”
Brown fat, one of the primary tissues where the body generates heat and therefore uses up energy,  is deactivated as a result.

Scientist now try to find how to increase and activate the brown fat in obese people.

Some years ago, researches at the Harvard University made an exciting discovery on mice models, confirmed lately on human. It seems that exercise has more benefits that burning calories. A hormone, named Irisin, is produced. Irisin is an “eco” traveler in our body and increases the good brown cells and decreases the “garbage sources”, the white fat cells.
Irisin is not the only “by-product” of exercise, hundreds of proteins result which make us healthier.

Another candidate for increasing brown fat is Ursolic Acid, found in apples (especially in skin), prunes, some Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme and several berries like bilberries and cranberries.
Of course mass-media launched immediately a new top song “Eat apples” but it’s not that easy. Research results are confirmed for the moment in mice only and, we are not mice.
Nevertheless, an apple a day is one of the best ideas for your health.

 

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Photo by Elizabeth Tran from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-apples-635705/

Other researches discovered that a 27 degrees temperature in your home can decrease brown fat under a reference baseline. By simply lowering your home temperature for a month to 19 degrees Celsius,  brown fat increases over that baseline.
Maybe, but this is not for me, I hate cold too  much. Besides, I have my doubts regarding this research. For one, based on previous experiences, I’m sure I would eat much, much more if living in cold. Then, I usually get rid of some pounds in Spring and Summer, when temperature raise way above 19 degrees Celsius.
However, it could be a good idea to lower somehow the temperature in my home to a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius.

Let’s wrap it all. Best advice so far, until sure methods are identified to increase the brown fat:

– don’t follow fad diets, which restrict drastically calories.
– a salad a day and a couple of fruits, apples or prunes included,  won’t probably increase your brown fat but might keep the doctor away.
– keep a pleasant  temperature in your home or office, something around 24 degrees Celsius, or even lower if you can stand it. Take a walk outside even in bad weather.
– make daily walking and other physical exercise a part of your life. Even if you won’t see immediate results, on the long term, your health and weight will improve for sure.So, whatever song is on top, put your shoes on and start moving!

Everybody wants to be a cat!

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