Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland have discovered a type of fat that helps to burn energy and supports weight loss. They are calling it “brown fat,” and it may play an important part in effective weight management. The study indicates that 50 grams of brown fat may burn 20 percent or more of your daily caloric intake, if it is properly activated.
Brown fat is seen in the neck area, located around blood vessels, probably to keep the blood warm. It can also be seen marbled in with white fat in visceral fat tissue. Newborn babies typically have a supply of brown fat to keep their bodies warm, but by adulthood, most of us have lost our stores of brown fat.
However, the study demonstrated that the brown fat still present in an adult body can be activated through exposure to cold temperatures. Participants in the study burned more calories in cooler temperatures, and they also lost the white fat which causes obesity.
According to the study, young people have more brown fat than the elderly, slender people have more than people who are obese, and people with lower blood sugar levels have more than people with higher levels.
The Role of Cold Temperatures in Activating Brown Fat
A number of studies have found that cold temperatures increased brown fat activity. A 2009 Swedish study showed cold-induced glucose uptake was increase by a factor of 15 percent. For the study, researchers dipped a subject’s food in an ice bath, while measuring the findings with positron-emission tomography (PET). A similar study in the Netherlands put subjects in a cold room (61 degrees Fahrenheit) for two hours and found an increase in brown fat activity.
Several animal studies indicate exercise can help convert white fat into brown fat. Researchers in one study discovered a previously-unknown enzyme called irisin, which stimulated the conversion. It has not been proven the same process will occur in human beings, but we do have the same protein.
In his book, The Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss says fat burning can potentially be increased by as much as 300 percent through the use of ice therapy. Ferriss recommends applying an ice pack to your upper back and upper chest for 30 minutes daily, drinking 500 milliliters of ice water each morning, taking cold showers, and immersing yourself in ice water (a bath with water and ice cubes) up to the waist for 10 minutes, three times weekly. If you choose to use ice therapy, advance slowly through the steps and let your body become accustomed to the cold gradually.
To improve your metabolism, it is also wise to avoid sugar and grains, which cause insulin and leptin resistance. Eat whole food meals and healthy snacks. Follow a well-rounded exercise program which includes strength-training and high-intensity interval training. Reduce stress through tools like meditation, prayer and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).