Most of us want to live a long life, but only if our later years are spent in good health. The buzzword these days isn’t “lifespan,” it’s “healthspan” – how long can you enjoy life to the fullest?
That’s why, for the past 20 years, scientists and researchers have been working hard to find ways for people to enjoy a longer healthspan. And according to some researchers, a certain fat naturally found in our bodies could be the answer.
Yes, this is a fat you WANT.
As I hinted, the fat I’m talking about is not just any fat. The secret lies in brown fat. It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it’s actually something we all had in abundance when we were babies.
Babies can’t shiver, which is our body’s way of warming us up when we’re cold. (And babies can’t grab an extra blanket, either!) So they rely on their body’s brown fat to keep them warm. How does it work?
Brown fat is loaded with mitochondria – the little energy factories that power every cell. When our mitochondria are humming along, they crank up our body temperature.
Brown Fat Stokes Your Metabolism
Brown fat keeps your metabolism burning, which keeps you warm and helps prevent weight gain. That’s why when we were young and had more brown fat, most of us could eat without packing on the pounds. (Those were the days. . .)
But we lose most of our brown fat as we age. This slows our metabolism and causes many people to develop an unhealthy body mass index (BMI) and even obesity. And these conditions are precursors to a slew of health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases.
So naturally, you want to get everything you can from the brown fat you’ve still got, and if possible you want to make more of it. . .
Can We Get our Brown Fat to Work Harder?
If brown fat helps keep our metabolism running better, it could help prevent many of the diseases that destroy our quality of life when we’re older. That’s why scientists and researchers are trying to crack the code on how we can use brown fat to our health advantage.
We’re probably a few years away from any definitive answers, but my sharp research staff has pored over medical journals and found some things we can do in the meantime.
You already know how important exercise and a good night’s sleep are to your health. Well, it turns out they both give your brown fat a healthy boost, too.
Sleep helps your body produce melatonin. And now, a study from 2013 showed that rats with higher levels of melatonin also had harder working brown fat.1
Exercise stimulates brown fat, too, because it makes our muscles release irisin. Irisin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) by helping our cells absorb it after exercise. And interestingly, it looks like irisin also causes white fat to actually mimic brown fat. That’s a win!
Not only that, but a study done by researchers from Yale School of Medicine show it’s possible to actually transform your white fat into brown fat.2 Good news indeed! The transformation happens when you eat just enough food to satisfy your hunger, and no more.
When you’ve had just enough, your brain’s hunger-regulating hormones are stimulated. And these hormones seem to instruct white fat to behave more like brown fat.
Here’s something else you can do. Researchers found that one of the most effective ways to get the brown fat you have working harder is to spend some time in cooler temperatures.3
A 2013 study looked at 51 healthy young men with low levels of brown fat. The men sat in a 63-degree room for two hours a day during a six-week period. Researchers kept track of their brown fat level and the amount of calories they burned.
At the start of the study, the results showed the men burned an average of 108 more calories when they were in the cold. And surprisingly, the burn increased to an average of 289 extra calories by the end of the study! That means the more days they spent in the cold, the more calories the brown fat burned.
So for the most part, enjoying a healthy lifestyle will help keep your brown fat active. If you’re in a colder climate and want to give it an extra boost, lower your thermostat for a while each day. Or you can even take a cold shower once in a while. (Or not, in my case.)