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Brown Fat vs. White Fat
Did you know that we each have two types of fat? One is beneficial, while the other is harmful. These two primary types of fat cells are called brown and white.
Brown fat cells are primarily found in newborns and leaner individuals. These cells are rich in energy-making mitochondria and 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 more common, abundant in adults and overweight/obese individuals. The more white fat cells a person has, the slower their metabolism will be. White fat cells are storage sites for extra calories in the form of large lipid droplets.1,5,6
Two Types of Brown Fat
Two types of brown fat have been identified, constitutive (present from birth) and recruitable, which are created by 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. That is 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, founder of the Wim Hof Method, which helps people endure ice cold water (among other things). 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 superhumans . . . for the moment!
But before you run out, join the Polar Bear Club and jump into a freezing cold lake . . . think twice. Many studies link cold exposure to increased cardiovascular risk.3 Cold baths and exposure must be done gradually with supervision or approval from your doctor.
Gradual Cold Shower Exposure can be accomplished by starting with a warm shower and ended with gradually colder water over a couple of weeks. Eventually you will be able to tolerate colder showers and colder weather.
However, there are also 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.
Turmeric for Brown Fat4,7,8
- Turmeric’s curcumin increases production of energy-producing mitochondria, which generate brown fat.
- Turmeric’s curcumin enhances expression of proteins involved in fat oxidation.
- Turmeric’s curcumin increases levels of the fat-burning enzyme, lipase, linked to reduction of fat cells and increase of fat metabolism.
- Turmeric’s curcumin increases expression of genes linked to production of brown fat.
The Right Kind of Turmeric
Turmeric, once again, offers unique health benefits and should be strongly considered as a daily cooking spice or supplement.
Black pepper is shown to boost absorption levels of turmeric through the intestinal tract by 200-2000%9,10 The best ratio of turmeric to black pepper that I’ve found is 16:1 parts turmeric to black pepper.10 At LifeSpa, we use this ratio in our Turmeric Plus formula. Dosage: 1-2 caps 2x/day after food.