There’s a type of fat called Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) that we have in abundance as babies, but that we gradually lose as we reach adulthood.
Otherwise known as Brown Fat, this tissue is an odd hybrid between fat and muscle. It’s darker in colour than the flabby fat we associate with the stuff that jiggles when we run or get up too fast.
Scientific research also tells us that it comes from the same stem cells as muscle. So technically it’s fat, but it has many of the characteristics of muscle.
Why are we even discussing this?
Well, there’s a way that you can encourage your BAT stores to become more active than they already are, and there’s even a way you could start to grow more of it back.
And why would we want it to grow and activate?
The answer to that is best explained by babies.
Babies – Brown Adipose Tissue – Body Heat
As an adult you have very little Brown Fat left. Medical scans have shown that we have kept sparing amounts in the upper chest and neck area, but it makes up less than a percent of your total body mass.
Infants, however, are a different matter. We are born with much more relative to our body mass – about 5%.
Its function is for babies to avoid hypothermia, given that babies are far more sensitive to cold temperatures than adults. They also cannot shiver very well at all, which is one of the ways adults generate heat when their environment is cold.
Brown fat is specifically ‘designed’ to generate heat – thermogenesis – in the absence of shivering, which for a baby, is essential.
The reason it is brown is due to the density of the mitochondria within the tissue. There is a much higher number of these cellular power plants than ‘white fat’. What’s more – they have a higher concentration of the coupling protein (thermogenin) in the inner membrane that is responsible for allowing the energy to be given off as heat.
You might still be wondering how this is relevant to you as an adult – as a bodybuilder, gym goer, athlete, father, mother…anyone who wants to stay in shape…
Brown Adipose Tissue burns regular fat as a source of fuel for this heat generation.
Adults – BAT and Burning Fat
BAT burns fat. The bad fat. The stuff you can grab in you hands, the stuff that builds around your heart that can ultimately be your demise.
Brown Fat uses it as fuel to create this heat, the process of thermogenesis. And current and recent research tells us that we can wake it up what we have left, and possibly even grow more.
The result would be your very own inner furnace, burning off extra calories of unwanted fat.
You see how this could be appealing to, well…everyone!?
Contrary to what some people believe, sweating buckets in a hot environment does not make you lose weight. If anything, your body is trying to stay cool by slowing metabolic processes and using as little energy, and fuel, as possible.
On the contrary, if you spend extended periods in colder climates – where you actually feel the cold, not where you wrap up warm and sit by the fire – you should find that your body fat reduces as your body burns it to generate heat.
A controlled version of this, called Cold Exposure, is what some people are experimenting with in order to activate their stores of Brown Adipose Tissue, and in some cases it, grow some.
So people have taken to sleeping in sub 19 C (66.2 F) degree temperatures to trigger the process. Unfortunately it would take many months or perhaps years of doing this to notice much of a difference. However, it is not a harmful practice to adopt and it might surprise some people to learn that it is in colder temperatures that we achieve deeper sleep in general, and not super cozy warmth.
Ingredients and Supplements
It’s not just your environment that can trigger BAT to activate, but some things that you consume.
Hot peppers – specifically Capsaicin or Capsicum – has been shown to effectively convert white fat cells into brown fat cells [source].
This ‘browning’ of white fat cells is an indication of what is to come with research into humans and the study of certain foods’ effects.
Obesity is basically a disease, so it should be said that hot peppers on a pizza is not the way to cancel out the other thousands of calories.
What it does mean is that a supplement containing a concentrated extract of hot peppers might be a good idea, along with a calorie controlled diet.
Cayenne pepper comes from capsaicin hot peppers. There is one dietary supplement we use which contains an excellent dose of it PLUS the rest of its formula is stellar.