Recent research has found some possible explanations for why a substance called brown fat can actually increase your metabolism. Brown fat's beneficial qualities have actually motivated some people to call it “good fat.”
First, it's important to make a clear distinction between brown fat and its much-better-known cousin, white fat.
What Is White Fat?
White fat is what most people think of when they’re focused on losing weight, and it's used mainly for energy storage in the body. It’s also an efficient insulator, and it helps to prevent the body from losing heat.
What Is Brown Fat?
Brown fat's color is different from white fat's because it contains a large number of mitochondria (energy structures in your cells that have high iron levels). This type of fat can actually produce heat on its own, through a process called non-shivering thermogenesis. Not surprisingly, it’s particularly prevalent in human babies and hibernating animals, each of which need to produce heat without exercise.
Brown Fat Increases Metabolism — Here's Why
Until recently, it was thought that brown fat was pretty much a non-factor in adult human health. However, the latest research has shown that brown fat has a more important role than was previously believed. Brown fat actually makes up a small amount of all adult fat stores.
So what’s the magic of brown fat during exercise? Contrary to what people might think, exercise does not activate brown fat to somehow burn calories, or take up energy that comes from fat or carbohydrates.
Instead of burning up calories itself, brown fat increases metabolism by becoming a signaling device to the muscles. it actually triggers a muscle to take up more fatty acids to use as fuel. Brown fat is part of an array of metabolic tissues that communicate with one another and enable muscles to perform their functions during exercise.
This signaling from brown fat is also what happens during cold exposure, where it can help produce heat.
Exercise may burn your white fat, but at the same time, it helps brown fat regulate the functioning of your muscles during exercise.
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