Can Brown Fat Help Reduce Obesity?



Not all fat is created equal. There’s recently been a lot of chatter about brown fat and how it might be able to help you lose weight. And while science is just starting to understand the unique aspects of brown fat and what it does, preliminary information suggests that it can be an effective tool for weight loss.

Here’s what we know so far:

What is Brown Fat vs White Fat?

In the great brown fat vs white fat debate, these different types of fats are found in different places in the body and have very different roles.

When we’re talking about belly flab or excess fat on your arms or legs, that’s white fat. This is primarily used to store energy, which is released when your organs need it. White fat is the majority of the fat found in your body.

Brown fat is stored deeper in your torso and neck, and there’s a lot less of it in your body. Its main job is to turn food into body heat. You might even go as far as saying this is the “good” fat. This is because science has shown us that brown fat is highly effective at burning energy when it comes out of its resting state, much faster than white fat.

Scientists are becoming increasingly interested in how this process of burning energy can be used to treat obesity. However, we’re still in the early stages of research and haven’t discovered what all brown fat can do for our health. The ultimate goal is to see how white fat can be converted to brown fat and potentially streamline weight loss efforts.

How Does Brown Fat Burn Calories?

White fat (or white adipose tissue) builds up when we consume more calories than we need. The body converts these extra calories into an energy reserve in the form of white fat. The way white fat is distributed affects metabolic risk. For example, a large amount of white fat around the abdominal area is associated with a higher metabolic risk, while fat deposited around the hips and thighs does not.

On the other hand, brown fat generates heat by burning calories, a process called thermogenesis. This process is triggered when it’s cold, since brown fat’s main job is to produce body heat. When we feel cold, our bodies start to shiver to generate body heat. This is brown fat coming out of its resting state and into an active state. Shivering is the act of our muscles expanding and contracting quickly, which creates heat (and burns calories).

This is believed to be the reason why newborns have such high levels of brown fat, which is about 5% of their body weight. It helps to protect them from hypothermia (a drop in core body temperature), which is a serious threat to newborns and premature babies. Older adults can move to keep warm when it’s cold or leave cold areas altogether, but newborns don’t have this ability. When it’s cold, brown fat’s energy reserves are depleted in an effort to produce heat and protect the body from the cold.

When humans or mammals have higher levels of brown fat, it takes them longer to start shivering when it’s cold compared to those with lower levels of brown fat.

How Can Brown Fat Be a Solution for Obesity?

Obesity continues to plague Americans, affecting roughly 42% of the population. In response, medical researchers are looking for solutions to help people lose weight and keep it off, either by cutting food intake or by burning more calories. 

Because brown fat contributes to energy use (and therefore calorie burn), dispelling energy as heat may be able to counter weight gain.

Early experiments have shown that adding brown fat to mice increases the rate at which they burn energy. This in turn reduces the amount of total fat on their bodies and protects them from obesity caused by a poor diet. This process of generating heat, called thermogenesis, can also be triggered by eating.

Right now, science is unsure of how we can increase our brown fat content. However, there are some ideas as to how we can convert more of our white fat to brown fat, which could help promote weight loss and prevent additional weight gain.

A study from the Universite de Sherbrooke in Canada discovered that participants with higher levels of brown fat start shivering at lower temperatures compared to those with lower levels of brown fat that started shivering at higher temperatures. When the brown fat cells were active, the participants burned an additional 250 calories, increasing the calorie burn rate by 180%.

In this same study, researchers discovered that lean individuals tend to have more brown fat content than obese individuals.

Other research suggests that a signaling pathway may be useful in turning white fat cells into brown fat. However, if scientists were able to do this, there remains the challenge of “activating” the brown fat to start burning more energy. There’s also the concern that even with an excessive calorie burn, the body may try to compensate for this loss by increasing feelings of hunger, which could lead to a higher caloric intake.

It’s clear that more research is needed, but there’s enough promising studies to make brown fat studies a priority in fighting obesity.

Emu Oil’s Role in Increasing Brown Fat Production

If you’re looking to increase your brown fat content, Emu oil capsules could play a vital role. Lipid proteins are the building blocks of brown fat, and Emu oil is rich in them.

Emu oil contains the entire fatty acid chain, which I covered in a previous blog post. However, one thing I’d like to reiterate here is that it’s not easy to get all of your essential Omega’s from a standard diet. Most people are aware of Omega-3’s, which are commonly found in oily fish. But the other Omega’s are just as important for you:

  • Omega-6 is critical to brain function and healthy skin, bones, and hair
  • Omega-7 improves symptoms of insulin resistance and inflammation
  • Omega -7 also increase good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol, along with helping your body use fat instead of storing it
  • Omega-9 also increases good cholesterol and eliminate plaque buildup in the arteries
  • Omega-11 is important to cardiovascular health

To get the best benefits, it’s all about balance. However, studies show that a typical Western diet gets way too much Omega 6 in comparison to the others. It’s easier said than done to strike the right balance between the omega fatty acid chain, and when we get too much of one thing (usually Omega 6), then it can actually diminish health benefits and create issues.

What does this have to do with brown fat and obesity?

A lot, actually. When you balance the fatty acid chain in your diet, you can promote natural brown fat production. Emu oil contains the entire fatty acid chain in an ideal ratio to help fill in the gaps left behind by your normal diet. Even taking a fish oil supplement isn’t going to fill in all the holes, especially since quality fish oil is getting harder to come by due to depleting resources. Plus, many people report having symptoms associated with fish oil. A lot of people don’t like the fishy aftertaste. It could also increase belching, cause abdominal pain, and could even interact with certain medications like blood thinners.

So, the old adage is true: you are what you eat. I look at health like a tightrope walk over the Grand Canyon: if you don’t have the key “tools,” you’re not going to get an optimal outcome.