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Brown fat: why is it important for health?

Research on the function of brown tissue has yielded interesting results in recent years. For this reason, it is currently associated with weight loss and other important processes.

Brown fat is that which is activated when the sensation of cold is perceived. Unlike white or yellow fatty tissue, whose function is primarily as an energy reserve, this type of fat has important health implications.

It is found mainly in the pericardial and supraclavicular areas and around organs such as the pancreas and kidneys. It is a metabolically active tissue that has a large number of mitochondria in its composition. Its function is thermoregulatory and in babies it takes on special importance.

Activation of brown fat

When we are cold, more fat is burned to generate heat. This is due, in particular, to the stimulation of brown fat. Physical exercise also seems to activate this type of fat, which affects the elimination of white adipose tissue.

A group of researchers found a positive relationship between the consumption of melatonin and the increase in brown fat. The results of their study, published in 2018, suggest that the administration of this hormone could be an effective mechanism for weight control by stimulating this metabolically active brown tissue.

However, the studies carried out in this regard have been carried out on animal models. This implies that the conclusions drawn cannot be fully extrapolated to humans. Regardless, experts suggest that brown or brown fat tissue may be closely linked to weight loss and blood glucose regulation.

In any case, the distribution of this fat is not homogeneous between individuals, and there are also differences in terms of sex. Women seem to have a greater amount of this tissue.


The thermogenesis process carried out in brown fat has the function of producing heat when a low temperature is detected. For this, triglycerides and glucose are used in a protein-mediated metabolic reaction.

In this way, the amount of brown fat in the body is positively linked to energy expenditure. The activation of this tissue can lead to an increase of up to 5% in energy expenditure at rest, which could mean an increase in energy needs by 100 kcal.

The organs that are in charge of mediating the activation of this tissue are the heart, through the secretion of peptides; the muscle, through the hormones called myokines; and the nervous system thanks to the secretion of catecholamines.

Nutrition and brown fat

Some active compounds in food could be related to the amount of brown fat in the body and its metabolic capacity. Capsaicin, resveratrol, curcumin, and green tea appear to be able to stimulate this type of brown tissue, as do conjugated linoleic fatty acids.

This could be the reason why regular food intake with these nutrients is linked to weight loss, according to a study published in 2017. However, the evidence is not strong and more human trials are needed confirming these associations.

Brown fat, a metabolically active tissue

Brown fat, contrary to white or yellow, constitutes a metabolically active tissue. It has functions in the body’s thermoregulation and begins to work when the body detects the sensation of cold.

This start-up leads to significant increases in metabolic expenditure at rest, which can lead to weight loss thanks to the destruction of white fat tissue. Currently, the effects of melatonin and certain active compounds in food on brown fat tissue are being studied.

The intake of certain substances could increase, to some extent, the proportion of it in the body. It could even improve your metabolic activity. On the other hand, exercise helps to stimulate the functions of this tissue, increasing energy expenditure and thereby maximizing weight loss.

Finally, it should be noted that this fat is more abundant in newborns than in adults. There are also differences in terms of sex, since it can be found in greater quantities in women than in men.


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