Killing your Brown Fat
New Brown Fat Research links Obesity Diet to Brown Adipose Tissue Damage
Brown fat and its related beneficial beige fat have only recently been shown to be important to adult humans. Now researchers have found that feeding an obesity diet chow to mice that is high in sugar and fat damages brown fat. Killing your brown fat with that doughnut is not a good idea. Your brown fat is jam-packed with vascular tissue, blood vessels, and mitochondria, the body’s energy burning factory. Known vascular health risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and lack of exercise are damaging to brown fat and the critical role it has in metabolism and health.
Studies have analyzed the “browning” of WAT as a strategy for combating obesity (54–56). However, it has been argued that these actions are quantitatively incapable of significantly affecting systemic metabolism due to the low thermogenic capacity of WAT browning relative to that exhibited by classical BAT depots (57). Comparatively little attention has been given to the mechanisms that contribute to BAT dysfunction and how they affect overall metabolic health. As shown here, the status of the vasculature in BAT is critical for its function both in terms of thermogenesis and systemic metabolic homeostasis. Thus, risk factors that are associated with diminished vascular health, such as hypertension, hyper-cholesterolemia, and physical inactivity, could contribute to the development of obesity through the degradation of BAT function. Shimizu, J Clin Invest. 2014; 124(5):2099–2112 doi:10.1172/JCI71643
The positive benefits of brown fat burning off excess sugar to produce body heat is reversed. Your brown and beige fat becomes white fat and insulin levels are increased. This part of the growing evidence about the importance of brown fat to your health. Brown fat is not just burning off excess calories in the process of non-shivering thermogenesis (maintaining you internal body temperature in mild cold conditions – not cold enough to trigger the shiver response). Brown fat also plays a fundamental role in whole body metabolism. We know that we lose brown fat as we age and as we become overweight and obese. We are just starting to find out how it functions so that we can stimulate brown adipose tissue activity for weight loss and prevention or treatment of metabolic diseases like diabetes.