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science nutrition blog

science nutrition <strong>blog</strong>

The human body contains small amounts of a calorie burning tissue called brown fat (brown adipose tissue or BAT) that converts food energy directly into heat. White fat does the opposite— it stores energy. BAT is an important heat-generating tissue in hibernating animals. It promotes non-shivering thermogenesis, which generates heat and helps animals and humans adapt to the cold. Brown fat accounts for as much as 10 percent of the fat mass in people living in cold climates, such as northern Finland and Siberia. Individual differences in BAT content and activity play an important role in human obesity. BAT is turned on by the sympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s fight-or-flight system for coping with stress and emergencies. Increasing brown fat activation helps people expend more calories and burn more fat. Key nutrients and spices such as chili pepper (capsaicin), ginger extract, kaempferol, oleuropein, bile acids and ursolic acid can increase brown fat activity, which increases caloric expenditure and promotes fat burning. Several recent studies showed that activating the genes that control BAT production and BAT activity might help treat obesity. (Obesity Reviews, 15: 92-106)