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Differences between brown fat and white fat

When it is usually referred to as the fat or adipose tissue present in the body, it is usual to have the belief that it should be eliminated. There are two types of fat in the body, white fat and brown or brown fat. The former is usually associated with something negative, while the latter is viewed in a better light.

If you do not know what brown fat is and how it differs from white fat, then we will tell you all the details related to the subject.

What is brown fat?

Brown fat is also known as brown, beige, primary, multilocular, or immature fat. It is a type of adipose tissue present in most mammalian species, including humans.

This type of fat predominates during childhood, being lost during adulthood, although not in its entirety since every adult retains a small amount of this adipose tissue. Compared to white fat, brown or brown fat fulfills different functions, is more vascular, and has other differences that will be presented later.

One of the main functions of brown fat is to provide heat in an environment with low temperatures; This is known as thermogenesis. Thanks to brown fat, animals that hibernate in winter can keep their body temperatures warm.

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In humans, during the first months of life, babies do not have good body temperature regulation, instead, they have brown adipose tissue. This fat is essential for newborns as it helps them stay warm.

Where is brown fat found?

Newborns have stores of brown fat especially in the torso and neck area since from there they can better conserve heat. As mentioned earlier, as we grow older and move into adulthood, the amount of brown fat in the body begins to decrease considerably.

This type of adipose tissue is located in the area of the renal arteries, the armpits, in the area between the shoulder blades, and around the thyroid and carotid arteries, that is, in the neck area. Brown fat is also stored in the spinal cord area.

Previously, it was believed that this brown adipose tissue was only found in newborns. Observing that adults also stored small amounts of brown fat and that it participated in thermogenesis, began to be considered as an organ of heat.

Differences between brown and white fat

The two types of adipose tissue that make up the body have different characteristics and functions. On the one hand, brown fat, as already noted above, has a thermoregulatory function, since it provides heat to the body when it is exposed to low temperatures. In the case of white fat, which is normal fat, it has the function of storing energy so that the body can use it when it needs it.

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Another difference between the two types of fat is that, while brown adipose tissue is present in very small amounts, white fat represents approximately 20% of body weight in men and 25% in women.

At first glance, there is also a big difference between both adipose tissues, and it is their color. Brown fat has a reddish-brown color, while white fat is whitish or yellow.

Likewise, brown fat has smaller adipocytes than white fat and these have a greater number of mitochondria, whose cytoplasm has numerous vacuoles of varying sizes, hence brown adipose tissue is also known as multilocular.

Is it possible to activate the metabolism to burn brown fat?

As has been mentioned repeatedly, the amount of brown or brown fat is minimal compared to white fat and, unlike white fat, brown fat is considered beneficial and effective in speeding up metabolism.

The accumulation of white adipose tissue can lead to health problems, such as obesity. This happens due to the excessive contribution of calories to the body, which is stored in the body in the form of white fat that, as it is not burned, accumulates.

For its part, it has been proven that the activation of brown adipose tissue can help with weight loss and the reduction of cholesterol and triglycerides, and may be beneficial for people with diabetes or obesity. It should be noted that white fat in normal amounts is not harmful and also plays an important role in the body.

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To activate brown fat, it is recommended to expose yourself to low temperatures on a regular basis. Some studies also suggest that brown fat could be activated under mild and acute stress. Other recommendations to activate this type of adipose tissue are regular physical activity, eating pears and apples with their skin (for their ursolic acid), eating well, and eating on time.

The phenomenon of thermogenesis

Thermogenesis is the ability of the body to produce heat on its own thanks to metabolic reactions. Thermogenesis can occur through physical exercise, through food, as an adaptive response (in the presence of cold temperatures), or through natural processes in the body (respiration, metabolism, and so on).

This phenomenon can be very beneficial for those looking to lose weight, since calories are burned during the process. Thermogenesis supports energy balance, which is important for maintaining a healthy weight.

When more calories are ingested than the body needs, they are accumulated in the form of white adipose tissue, being necessary to produce an energy expenditure similar to the calorie intake to maintain energy balance.

Because thermogenesis produces heat and the processes involved in it involve energy expenditure, it helps to burn calories, in fact, adaptive thermogenesis is carried out in brown adipose tissue. Therefore, the activation of brown fat is favorable for weight loss, which can be achieved with exercise and a good diet.

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Shawna Anderson

Bsc in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the Complutense University of Madrid. I love writing about nutrition and health and related topics. I have written for some famous newspapers and magazines for the last 6 years.

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