Thursday, August 20, 2009
NO, I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT BROWN FAT!
I'm talking about a fat tissue in your body that known as Brown Andipose Tissue (BAT). BAT(or brown fat)wasn't, up until recently, thought to exist in the human body. I'll try not to get too technical here and I'll just say this: brown fat differs from your other fat tissue, White Andipose Tissue (WAT), because it doesn't just store fat. It converts it directly into body heat. Heat is the product of brown fat. It's not a waste product. So, functionally, it's a tissue that functions like a middle ground between your WAT and your skeletal muscles.
Here's a pic of the fat in question. It's typically found around the chest and neck area as well as around the kidneys, usually around veins so it can transfer its energy to the blood going back to the heart. It's a major source of heat for infants until they develop their muscles enough to provide heat and enough WAT to hold that heat in. It was thought that as an infant matures, the brown fat disappeared.
Like WAT, brown fat cells don't just go away. It' still present in an adults body. In fact, there may be as much as one pound (although I've heard a little as 2 ounces and as much as 1.5 lbs) of it in the adult human body, burning anywhere from 250-500 calories a day. It's an interesting discovery but like many others significant to our endeavors, there's some good ideas and some positively hideous ideas about how to use this new-found information about brown fat.
I don't know if your mind has wandered to the notion that someone might try to make a drug to stimulate or increase brown fat in the body. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical wheels are already turning. This isn't a good thing. There have already been drugs out there that make the body do much the same thing that brown fat does (Technical talk here, be warned... That is uncouple the mitochondrial energy-producing reaction so that it produces heat without producing ATP. Look it up if you don't get it). They all have a similar, and nasty, side effect: They cause the body to cook up so much that major organs end up getting damaged. Can you imagine what would happen to your kidneys if you took too much of a synthetic protein version UCP-1 (which tells brown fat to do its thing)? The most famous of these style of chemicals might be 2,4-Dinitrophenol, or DNP. Tell me if this is sounding more and more like a really stupid, redundant road that we might be going down.
Still, there are some practical and useful ideas for the discovery of brown fat. Science found out about brown fat by doing a PET scan in a cold room. The thought was that brown fat might be stimulated more by the cold since it exists to provide heat to the body. It appears that they were right. So, you may be able to naturally stimulate your brown fat tissue to burn more calories by exercising in a cooler climate. For those of you who have ever worked outside for long periods of time in cold weather know that if you're active in these conditions, it doesn't take long to fry the fat off of your body. I'll be the first one to admit that it isn't very comfortable to exercise outside when it's 45 degrees but if you're serious about fat loss and you just need a break from people watching Oprah on the treadmill while your'e trying to work out, then give it a second thought.
I'd rather deal with the cold.