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Brown Fat & Weight Loss - Research Update

Brian Turner

Posted on October 02 2014

Sleep in a Cold Room to Increase Brown Fat Activity

Brown fat (adipose) is a metabolically active tissue that dissipates energy as heat rather than storing it as fat. It helps humans acclimatized to cold, and may be critical for weight maintenance. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health, led by Francesco Celi and Paul Lee, found a novel way of turning on brown fat and increasing caloric expenditure: sleep in a cooler room. Five men slept in one-month blocks at room temperatures varying between 66 and 81 degrees. Sleeping in the cold room doubled brown fat activity and improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation. Sleeping in a slightly cooler room might be an effective way to increase metabolism and promote weight loss.

Harnessing Brown Fat to Burn More Calories

Brown fat is a highly thermogenic tissue that converts energy to heat instead of storing it as fat. A study from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California showed that the release of chemicals called PGC1-alpha and GADD45- gamma activate brown fat to turn up the metabolic furnace. These newly discovered chemicals show how brown fat could promote fat loss. The scientists injected the hormone into mice fat cells, which increased their energy expenditure. Other studies found that exercise increases PGC1-alpha levels and activates brown fat metabolism, which helps explain why intense exercise promotes fat loss, even though carbohydrates are the principal fuels during exercise at intensities above 65 percent of maximum effort. Heavy exercise causes more PGC1 production than moderate-intensity exercise.

Brown Fat Helps Control Energy Balance

Brown fat (brown adipose tissue, BAT) is a calorie-burning tissue in the human body that converts food energy directly into heat. BAT increases metabolic rate following overeating, thus preventing weight gain. Energy metabolism works through a series of coupled reactions. This means that energy released by breaking down fats, carbohydrates and proteins are captured in other reactions, such as making ATP (a high energy chemical) or storing fats and carbohydrates. Uncoupling occurs when the energy from food breakdown is released as heat instead of capturing it as ATP. Brown fat converts food energy directly into heat. Drug and supplement makers such as Advanced Molecular Labs (AML) Thermo Heat are targeting uncoupling in brown fat and other cells to increase metabolic rate, which will help people control body fat.

Can We Harness Brown Fat to Fight Obesity?

Individual differences in brown fat may play an important role in human obesity. Increasing brown fat production and activity might help people lose weight and control body fat (white adipose tissue). A study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School showed that a chemical regulator (PRDM16) controls brown fat production. Key nutrients influence PRDM16 activity. Supplementing them in the diet is an exciting new strategy for fighting fat and obesity. Cold exposure increases brown fat levels, but few people are willing to spend much time in a freezer. Nutritional supplements are a novel way of boosting brown fat activity and promoting fat loss. Supplementing with Advanced Molecular Labs (AML) Thermo Heat is an effective way of activating BAT without overly stimulating the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight system).

References:

1. (Diabetes, Published Online June 22, 2014)
2. (Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073
3. (Current Opinion Clinical Nutritional Metabolic Care, 17:368-372, 2014)
4. (Scientific American, August 2014)