Not all fat is the same: Why you need ‘brown fat’ to stay in shape

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Published on: 2 November 2022, 10:15 am IST

Over the years, body fat has got a bad reputation, especially among people trying to lose weight! Body fat has been linked to many chronic diseases, but not all of it is bad. In fact, your body needs fat to function properly. For the unversed, fat is required to store energy in the body and absorb essential nutrients. Did you know that body fat is made up of different colours? Scientists have identified it as brown and white. Brown fat is particularly beneficial for your health.

Health Shots asked Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator and Physiotherapist Dr Archana Batra some questions about brown fat and how it works.

What is brown fat? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is brown fat?

Brown fat or brown adipose fat (BAT) is a type of body that helps regulate your body temperature in cold weather, explains Dr Batra. She further explains that it activates when you shiver. “In comparison to white fat, you have a small percentage of brown fat in your body. Brown fat is in charge of producing heat in order to warm the blood in your body. It generates heat by breaking down blood sugar and fat molecules. This process generates heat to assist you in maintaining your body temperature.”

How is it different from other fats?

Brown fat is very different from white fat, according to the expert. She explains that while white fat is responsible to store extra energy, brown fat generates heat to help maintain body temperature. Mitochondria is the “powerhouse of cells” that is used as a source of energy by your body. “Brown fat contains many more mitochondria than white fat cells and uses them to generate heat and keep your bodies warm. It reduces the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. People with brown fat had significantly lower rates of type 2 diabetes than people without brown fat,” Dr Batra highlights.

Is there a way to build brown fat in the body?

As per the expert, some lifestyle changes can help you build brown fat and keep your health in check.

1. Adding iron to your diet

The foods you eat cause you to gain weight. Since brown fat contains iron, choose iron supplements or iron-rich foods such as meat and seafood, whole grains, leafy vegetables, and beans to ensure your body receives enough iron to keep your fat cells healthy.

2. Lowering the temperature

Brown fat becomes active in colder temperatures, just before you start shivering. According to some studies, turning down the thermostat, taking a cold shower, or taking an ice bath can help your body produce more brown fat, allowing you to burn more calories.

3. Exercise

Moving your body may appear to be a no-brainer when it comes to fat loss. Regular exercise causes the release of an enzyme called irisin, which causes white fat cells to convert into brown fat cells.

How to increase brown fat to lose weight? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Does brown fat help people trying to lose weight?

There are four types of fats in your body, including white fat, brown fat, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat. “Each type of fat serves a different purpose, and not all fats are harmful. Brown fat is the most intriguing fat when it comes to weight loss. When brown fat is activated, it burns calories. When it gets cold, brown fat keeps you warm. The cold activates brown fat, which produces heat through a process known as thermogenesis. In addition to keeping you warm, thermogenesis aids in the breakdown of excess body fat and increases metabolism.”

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