Do you realise more people face obesity compared to people in the past? We may have heard that obesity is high in high-income countries such as in America due to their diet but this event is happening in countries with low and middle-income countries such as in our country too. Obesity is the epicentre of many diseases such as diabetes and heart attack which slowly kills a person. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will be learning one way to help fight obesity which is how to increase brown fat in the body.

       You probably wonder, what does fat have to do with losing weight to solve obesity? Furthermore, fat is the main culprit for obesity, right? You are not wrong. Yes, fat in general and with our understanding does lead to obesity but brown fat is a whole different story. Brown fat is known to produce heat when the body is exposed to cold environments. The fat that we know is associated with obesity and excessive weight is white fat. Modern living has made humans eat food loaded with energy but made people less moving around compared to our ancestors. Thus, utilisation of the brown fat is less compared to the life of people in the old days. This led to weight gain due to accumulation of white fat.

          Researchers used to understand brown fat only can be found in infants since this fat helps to regulate the body temperature. Currently, researchers have identified the existence of brown fat in adults as well. More research is done on brown fat to help understand the function of brown fat and its ability to treat issues relating to excessive weight.

          Before we learn how to increase brown fat in the body, how does brown fat relate to losing weight? Research shows that a team of men that has been exposed to cold temperature shows high brown fat activity that reduces the level of branched amino acids (BCAAs) linked with obesity and diabetes. Brown fat breaks down blood sugar or glucose and fatty components inside the body. This is how the body regulates its body temperature. Brown fat has more mitochondria compared to white fat. Mitochondria is a tiny structure in cells that works as the powerhouse of heat production. Exposure of the body towards cold temperature leads to brown fat producing protein called SLC25A44. This protein brings BCAA into the mitochondria and reduces the BCAA itself.

          It is now proven that brown fat is one way to help curb obesity. Keeping the room around 17 to 18 degrees Celsius or taking a cold shower is the easiest thing to do, especially living in our country where we do not have cold seasons. Is cold temperature the only way you can increase brown fat? Not necessarily. You can actually increase brown fat in your body in many other ways. This includes:

  • Exercise helps to produce more brown fat in the body. Exercise stimulates the production of irisin which boosts the browning of white fat. Exercise also boosts UCP1 activity in brown fat that releases hormones associated with lean muscle development that ultimately controls body fat.
  • Eating to satiety. Regulation of “hunger hormones” such as ghrelin and leptin are done by the brain cells. These hormones help to control appetite and stimulate white fat to turn into brown fat. Eating to satiety is enough to trigger the hormones and not over-consumption is important. Learn how to identify the hunger signals and figure out ways to avoid emotional eating.
  • Get good quality sleep. Melatonin is known to help lower obesity. This is why some people actually rely on melatonin supplements to boost the effect of melatonin which affect the brown fat function. Good news is, you don’t have to rely on this supplement as it is quite costly. Try to improve your sleep by improving your circadian rhythm. This can be done by avoiding blue light from electronic device before bedtime, try to sleep and wake up around the same time every day and try to get more sunlight exposure during daylight. Other things to do to help fall asleep easier is to relax before getting into bed such as reading book or listening to soothing music.
  • Good stress management. Stress is known to be the precursor of many health problems and makes it worse. Stress makes weight loss journey difficult as it promotes bad fat and interferes with hunger signals which may lead to overconsumption or under consumption. Without a doubt, stress is needed in our life but too much stress brings more harm than good especially when it is not managed well. Learn how to manage stress by getting good sleep, regular physical activity and practising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or yoga.
  • Eating food that increases brown fat. Luckily, there are many foods that are affordable known to help increase brown fat such as turmeric, green tea, chilli peppers and fish oil. These foods help to increase brown fat either by increasing the conversion of white fat to brown fat or increasing rate of the brown fat production.

       In essence, not all fat is the nemesis for a good body weight. Brown fat has shown weight loss effect and reducing obesity. This can help a person to achieve healthy weight for a healthier future.

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