What is Brown Fat?
It is indeed a wonder why there are certain areas of the body which accumulates fat. Examples of these areas are thighs and the abdomen. Fat in these areas are the objects of scorn and low self-esteem. The fat in these areas is stubborn and sometimes just wouldn't go away with diet and exercise. Some experts say that fat is just like any other body organ and has also main functions in the body such as the storage of excess calories that can be used during periods of hunger and stress, and the release of hormones that govern metabolism in the body.
There are five types of fat: brown, white, visceral, subcutaneous and belly fat. Among the five, brown fat is the type that has received a lot of attention nowadays. This is because brown fat was the type of fat that was seen more in lean people than in overweight or obese people. It is said that brown fat, when stimulated, can burn calories when it is stimulated. Experts think that brown fat can be used to treat obesity, so that new medicines and supplements should be discovered to increase or stimulate brown fat for weight loss.
The experts also learned that as we age, brown fat in the body declines. Brown fat is more abundant in children than in adults, and it helps keep the body warm, especially during the winter season. Some experts have even actually tried the idea of placing people in cold rooms to burn more calories and stimulate brown fat. Brown fat has been associated with muscle, and is said to burn white fat when activated. It is said that when 2 ounces of brown fat is maximally stimulated, it can burn off about 300 to 500 calories of white fat in a day or about a pound in a week. Brown fat is uncommon even in lean bodies though.
On the other hand, white fat is the type fat found in majority of the parts of the body. This type of fat also functions to store extra energy of the body and create hormones that govern metabolism. Some of the smaller fat cell creates a hormone called adiponectin which brings about insulin sensitivity to the cells in the muscles and the liver so that carbohydrates taken in by the body are metabolized. If adiponectin production slows down, a person's carbohydrate metabolism become dysfunctional and the person may become susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. Another type of fat, subcutaneous fat, is the type of fat found just under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is not at all that bad and may even have potential benefits. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is the type of fat that surrounds the internal organs and is a bad type of fat because it increases you risk of having heart disease, diabetes, dementia and stroke. This is the type of fat that triggers insulin resistance which in turn leads to a dysfunctional carbohydrate metabolism of the body.
Switch On or Switch Off
A new study published in the January 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal shows that the thermogenic activity or the warming activity of brown fat is reduced as we age. Also, the researchers found out about a possible switch on or switch off metabolism that can activate brown fat in the body. This switch is called PAF/PAFR signalling, which controls UCP1 levels through regulating beta3-AR production in the brown fat of animals and humans. This discovery may actually trigger the discovery of new therapeutic targets for obesity. The study utilized two groups of mice, one group consisting of mice with the platelet-activating factor receptors (PAFR) gene knocked out. The PAFR-deficient mice were more obese compared to the normal mice.
This finding may trigger further studies of developing therapeutic targets utilizing brown fat in obesity. For more articles on obesity, you can see our other articles on this site.