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This “Active” Fat Makes You Thin

brown fats and white fats under microscope

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Dr. Al SearsThere’s more to good fat than simply adding butter, lard, coconut oil, or omega-3s to your diet. I’m also talking about a special kind of fat you already have in your body…

A fat that makes you thin.

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of fat in your body – white fat and brown fat.

White Fat: This type of fat is fairly inert. It Accumulates under your skin and pads your hips when you take in too many calories. It also builds up around your internal organs. When too much of this white fat collects around your organs it becomes dangerous “visceral” fat.

Brown Fat: This type of fat is known as “brown adipose tissue” or BAT. It is much more active than white fat. Until a few years ago, scientists thought only babies had brown fat – that this was nature’s way of keeping them warm. Unlike white fat, brown fat burns calories rather than storing them.

But there’s another big difference…

Brown fat contains mitochondria, which are full of iron and give this fat its brown color.

As you may know, mitochondria are the energy-generating organelles in your Cells. They are the power plants that turn fuel into energy for your body.

Brown fat is also healthy. It can lower your risk of:1

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure

Although most of your brown fat disappeared when you were a baby, your adult body retained small amounts – mainly in your neck, around the collarbone, and the upper half of your spine.

And even in small quanTities, brown fat can burn huge amounts of calories.

Although it makes up less than 5% of all your fat, it burns up a staggering 70% of your total calorie expenditure each day.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that brown fat can burn at least five times more stored energy than other fat.2

By contrast, white fat burns almost no calories at all.

Now astonishing new research shows you can easily transform your flabby white fat Into calory-burning brown adipose fat (BAT).

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Flip On Your Brown Fat Switch

One way to make the conversion of white fat to beige fat is to expose yourself to cold temperatures. A Japanese study found that six weeks of cold exposure increased the activity of a gene that triggers the conVersion of white fat into brown fat. The gene is called uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1).

Only brown fat cells have this protein. It works by redirecting energy flow in mitochondria.

I experienced extreme below-freezing temperatures when I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It was a life-changing experience, but I don’t want to subject myself to cold temperatures if I don’t have to!

Luckily, there are much more comfortable ways to “brown” your fat. Here are three:

1. Use the power of polyphenols:

Recent studies reveal that foods rich in these antioxidant plant compounds can turn white fat brown.3 Polyphenols havE long been known to have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, cardioprotective, antiviral, and neuroprotective properties. Polyphenol-rich foods include cocoa, apple, red wine, and green tea.

But two of the best sources are grapeseed extract and citrus bergamot. I recommend supplementing daily.

2. Eat thermogenic foods.

Certain natural foods can activate your brown fat and increase your metabolism. These “thermogenic” foods include ginger, black pepper, dark chocolate, and curcumin.

But one of the most effective is the hot pepper. These spicy foods are full of capsaicin, which burns calories and fat. Capsaicin can raise your energy expenditure in just minutes of eating one jalapeño pepper.

3. PACE your workout.

Research shows that exercise is just as effective as cold exposure for “browning” white fat.4 Two recent studies found that a hormone called irisin, which is released from muscle cells after exercise coaxes white fat to behave like brown fat. In one of these studies, researchers injected mice with a gene that tripled the levels of the hormone in the blood of mice that were obese and had dangerously high amounts of sugar in their bloodstream. The mice lost weight and regained control of their glucose levels in just 10 days.

Exercise has also been shown to increase UCP1 activity in brown fat, making it more active.

I recommend my PACE exercise program. It stands for Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion. It uses brief routines of increasing intensity and progressivity – so, the beauty of it is that you only need to exercise for 12 minutes a day.

If you want to learn some other good PACE exercises, go to my YouTube channel: I have more than 30 different exercises and a complete workout to help you get started.

Dr Al Sears, MD

To Your Good Health,

Dr. Al Sears

Al Sears, MD, CNS

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  1. Banks M. “Brown fat holds promise for addressing obesity and a host of related ills.” PNAS. 2022. 119 (43) e2216435119
  2. Gupta R. “Human brown fat and metabolic disease.” J Clin Investigation.2023;133(23):e176678.
  3. Hu J, et al. “Dietary polyphenols turn fat “brown”: A narrative review of the possible mechanisms.” Trend Food Sci Tech. 2020; DOI:10.1016/j.tifs.2020.01.013.
  4. Mu W, et al. “Exercise-mediated browning of white adipose tissue: its significance, mechanism and effectiveness.” Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov; 22(21): 11512.