photo: Shape Magazine

colors of fat: white, brown…and beige?

Fat-free. Saturated fat. Low-fat. Trans fat. FAT. Our society is obsessed with it. We’re all looking to burn fat, avoid eating fat, and just not be fat.

brown fat, brown adipose, what is brown fat, fat brown

photo: Shape Magazine

Have you ever seen those displays that have a chunk of rubbery “fat” and explain to you that what you are looking at is five pounds of body fat? The big hunk of bright yellow grossness? Well that white-ish yellow body fat is storage fat, i.e. the fat deposits that live on your hips, belly, thighs, wherever after a decadent meal or a boozy night. This type of fat has a very low metabolic activity level, thus enhancing the flabbiness. Not too many calories are going to be burned by this lazy fat. 90% of our body fat is made up of this yellow type of fat. Bummer!

Did you know that there’s a somewhat secret type of fat, the brown kind?! It sounds pretty nasty to have brown fat, but this kind could actually be helpful in the race to burn flab. Brown fat, ranging from a light peanut butter color to a reddish brown, has a rich blood supply and is often considered the “anti-fat”. Why is this? Brown fat is an adipose tissue that converts food into heat for the body. It has increased thermogenesis so it burns excess calories (and white fat!) in the body–awesome for if you’re trying to lose weight.

Sad news for us humans, though: we have very little brown fat in our bodies. The amount of our brown fat also declines with age, so our levels get lower right when we need it! If maximally stimulated, however, the tiny amount of brown fat in our bodies could burn an extra 300 to 500 calories each day. There aren’t any food products out in the marketplace that use or stimulate brown fat, but some researchers are working on a potential supplement or drug that could increase brown fat levels.

So now that I’ve given you some random fat facts, how is this going to benefit you? Well, there’s a type of beige fat (yes, a combo between white and brown fat). This fat also happens to be between white and brown fat in terms of the rate of calorie-burn, so it can be mildly helpful for those trying to lose weight. Good news–there’s a chance that white fat, with proper diet (brown seaweed, licorice root, and hot peppers could be beneficial), exercise, and perhaps supplements, could transform into beige fat. Researchers are working on this theory.

Digging through this post to find the moral of the story? For any kind of fat loss, proper diet and exercise is key. White may turn into beige, white may just melt away, who knows?! All you need to do is eat clean and sweat it out. Have you ever heard the phrase “sweat is fat crying”? Exactly.

photo credit: Shape Magazine