As I have written many times before, not all fat is bad for you. Quite the opposite, actually—“good fat” is beneficial for your health, and even mainstream nutrition is starting to come around to that fact.
But one thing that’s not quite as well known is that not all body fat is bad for you, either. And now, a new, large study helps explain why…
The fat-burning fat
As you may recall, there are three types of body fat—white, brown, and beige.
White fat is the type that stores unused calories, and results in unsightly flab. But white fat isn’t just a cosmetic issue. It’s also the most dangerous type of body fat because it’s associated with inflammation—the root cause of most illnesses and disease.
In contrast, brown fat is considered “good” fat. It actually burns energy to create heat. And beige fat appears when fat cells are converting between white and brown.
Researchers have been studying brown fat for decades in babies and animals. But it was only fairly recently that scientists discovered that adults have some brown fat, too, in small amounts around the neck and shoulders.
The only real way to look for brown fat is through a PET scan—which is wildly expensive and involves radiation. So, this latest study analyzed PET scans that were already performed at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Researchers looked at 130,000 PET scans from more than 50,000 patients. They identified brown fat in about 10 percent of these subjects. And took note of some pretty striking trends.
For one thing, people with detectable brown fat were significantly less likely to suffer from several chronic conditions—including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides.
Brown fat was also associated with:
- 15 percent lower risk of high blood pressure
- 38 percent lower risk of congestive heart failure
- 32 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease
- 23 percent lower risk of cerebrovascular disease
But that’s not all…
An antidote to obesity?
The protective benefits of brown fat were most prominent in obese people. For example, obese people with brown fat were less than half as likely to wind up with diabetes than obese people without brown fat.
In fact, the rate of cardiometabolic disease among obese subjects with detectable brown fat was comparable to non-obese people. So, it seems brown fat is somehow able to counteract at least some of the risks that obesity poses to your health.
The question is, how? Well, we don’t exactly know yet exactly how brown fat works its magic. But we do know that it’s rich in mitochondria—your body’s molecular energy centers. As a result, it behaves more like muscle than fat.
Of course, it would also be nice to know why some people have more brown fat than others. And whether it’s related to genetics, or if lifestyle factors make a difference.
But that’s just a start. If you really want to harness the fat-burning power of brown fat, check out the August 2016 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Transform your body and beat metabolic syndrome with brown fat”). Subscribers have access to that article and more in my archives—so as always, if you haven’t yet, consider signing up today.
“Study of 50,000 people finds brown fat may protect against numerous chronic diseases.” Science Daily, 01/04/2021. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210104114103.htm)