How to fire up your brown fat as temperatures drop

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate winter?

I seem to complain about it every single year. Because as an avid sun seeker and beach lover, nothing sends a chill down my spine faster than the thought of months and months of long nights and frigid temperatures.

And yet, it’s right around the corner. So I thought I would spend some time today focusing on one good thing that comes from colder temps: It offers a unique opportunity to burn more fat.

But according to new research, only if you have adequate stores of one critical nutrient in particular…

From A to brown

You might recall some of our previous conversations about brown fat. But let me take a minute to refresh your memory…

Brown fat is packed with mitochondria. Mitochondria are the parts of the cell that turn nutrients into energy, and they’re rich in iron (which makes the fat look brown).

This makes brown fat uniquely able to generate energy through a process called thermogenesis—which burns calories and creates heat—instead of storing energy like normal white fat.

In fact, even though brown fat makes up a tiny fraction of the fat in our bodies, it has the potential to annihilate white fat, essentially causing it to melt away. But that only happens when brown fat is “activated.”

And one thing that activates brown fat? Cold temperatures. But as recent research shows, that activation doesn’t happen without a little help from vitamin A.

This team of scientists discovered that, while most vitamin A is stored in the liver, cold temperatures direct this nutrient toward fat stores. Once there, vitamin A is able to “brown” white adipose tissue and increase the rate of fat burning.

When the scientists blocked vitamin A transport in mice, however, it blunted both this cold-triggered rise in vitamin A, as well as the “browning” of white fat. Enough so that the mice were no longer able to protect themselves against the cold.

On the other hand, when the team introduced vitamin A to human white fat cells, it triggered those telltale brown fat traits—including increased metabolic activity and calorie burning.

Supplements are a start

The study authors are quick to mention that their findings are not an argument for consuming large amounts of vitamin A supplements. (And really, are you surprised?) But in response, allow me to point out something that this report didn’t address…

Back in 2015, researchers analyzed both the body mass index (BMI) and nutrient intake of more than 18,000 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And they found that the higher a person’s BMI, the more likely they were to suffer from nutrient deficiencies.

In fact, over 40 percent of the participants didn’t get enough calcium, magnesium, vitamins C, D, E, or—you guessed it—vitamin A from their diets.

So you know what? I’d say a supplement isn’t such a bad idea. And not just because it plays a role in activating brown fat stores…

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for healthy eyes, too—helping protect against macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. It also keeps your immune system strong so you can fight off infections. (And in the age of coronavirus, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?!) Plus, vitamin A is known as the anti-aging vitamin because it helps make your skin supple and reduces wrinkles.

So, I recommend taking 2,000 IU of vitamin A acetate per day. 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 my entire archives—so as always, if you haven’t yet, consider signing up today.


“Vitamin A boosts fat burning in cold conditions: The conversion of white into brown adipose tissue is a promising target for obesity treatment.” Science Daily, 10/21/2020. (