Beige Fat and Brown Fat Explained

 Research shows Beige Fat works like Brown Fat

Mild cold and exercise stimulate creation of “beige fat” in white adipose tissue

Beige fat and brown fat cold activation

Mild cold exposure forms beige fat and brown fat

Our whole focus on fat, weight loss and obesity has been rooted in looking at white fat which is the “bad fat” that we find so hard to eliminate. White fat or white adipose tissue is really only one type of adipose tissue. Recent research has focused on brown adipose tissue (“brown fat”) which turns energy into heat in a process known as “thermogenesis” to maintain the body’s warmth in response to mild cold exposure. Exercise has also been linked to the presence and activation of brown fat, and it is thought to have an important role in weight loss and suppressing metabolic disease. Now researchers have also been working on learning more about a third adipose tissue they call beige fat because beige fat cells can be generated and mixed with white fat cells and are not separate tissue deposits like brown fat.

Beige fat and brown fat cells have now been linked to reductions in body mass, obesity, and metabolic disease in studies on mice. These studies have major positive implications for areas of study to fight obesity and treat metabolic diseases such as diabetes in humans. Beige fat and brown fat generation and activation are both triggered by exercise and cold exposure. Breakthroughs in weight loss and health may be achieved by simple natural mechanisms following protocols of exercise and use of simple natural tools such as a cooling vest for brown fat activation.

How important is this area of research? In a scientific review of the field, scientists concluded:

There is persuasive evidence from animal models that enhancement of the function of brown adipocytes, beige adipocytes or both in humans could be very effective for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity.  Harms, M., Seale, P., Brown and Beige Fat: development, function and therapeutic potential. Nat. Med. 19 (2013).

Another key link between brown fat and beige fat is found in the way that brown fat works to generate heat from energy (instead of storing energy – the role of white fat). Brown adipose tissue (BAT) are jam-packed with mitochondria, the cell’s energy factory, that contain a protein known as “UCP1”. The UCP1 protein is key to generation of heat by burning glucose. That heat is then distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system.

Beige fat is essentially mixed in with white fat cells, but beige fat cells have a critical similarity to brown fat cells. The beige fat cells are also packed with mitochondria containing UCP1, and the creation of beige fat cells and their activation is triggered by cold exposure.

Understanding that the body has three types of adipose tissues, and their role, are important to following the exciting new areas of scientific exploration of the role these cells play in human health.

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