Humans produce two primary types of fat cells, brown and white. Brown fat cells are primarily found in newborns and leaner individuals. These cells are rich in energy-making mitochondria that contain an ample amount of iron, giving them a reddish-brown color. They are also rich in thermogenic proteins that provide heat, insulation, metabolism and energy to the body. (1,5,6) Brown fat cells contain small lipid droplets that burn glucose and white fat cells as fuel.
The big difference between brown and white fat cells is that brown fat cells burn energy, rather than store it.
White fat cells are the more common type of fat cell found. These cells are more abundant in adults and overweight and obese individuals. The more white fat cells a person has, the slower their metabolism will be. White fat cells are the storage sites for extra calories in the form of large lipid droplets. (1,5,6)
Two types of brown fat have been identified, constitutive (present from birth) and recruitable, which employs the browning of white fat when levels of brown fat are insufficient to maintain body temperature. (1) Brown fat has been found to protect mice against obesity when they are overfed, and mice with more brown fat tend to be more lean and healthy. (1)
It was once thought that brown fat disappeared after infancy. Until recently, when researchers discovered that adults carry brown fat as well, and that there are certain agents that can actually boost its production!
How to Boost Your Brown Fat
One way to boost brown fat to white fat ratios was made famous by Wim Hof aka “The Iceman,” who founded the Wim Hof Method, which helps people endure ice cold, arctic water swimming. In one study, brown fat levels were increased after a 10-day cold climate acclimatization period. Non-shivering thermogenesis was also improved, making us mortals into super humans for the moment!
Before you run out and jump into a freezing cold lake this winter… think twice. There are many studies that link cold exposure to increased cardiovascular risk. (3) More studies are needed here for sure!
There are newly discovered safer and easier ways to boost your brown to white fat ratio. Recently, some very compelling evidence suggests that turmeric can do just that.
In a handful of studies, one of the active constituents of turmeric, curcumin, was found to boost brown fat levels and support healthy, natural weight loss in a variety of ways: (4,7,8)
- Curcumin increased the production of energy-producing mitochondria which generate brown fat.
- Curcumin enhanced the expression of proteins involved in fat oxidation.
- Curcumin increased levels of the fat-burning enzyme, lipase, which is linked to the reduction of fat cells and the increase of fat metabolism.
- Curcumin increased the expression of genes linked to the production of brown fat.
Boost Your Turmeric with Black Pepper
Turmeric, once again, offers us unique health benefits and should be strongly considered as a daily cooking spice or supplement.
Turmeric, when combined with black pepper, was shown to boost absorption levels of turmeric through the intestinal tract by 200-2000% (9,10)
The best ratio of black pepper to turmeric that I’ve found is 1 part black pepper to 16 parts turmeric. (10)