When we hear about fat inside our bodies, we usually think about something unwanted. But generally the type of harmful fat fat we’re thinking of is “white fat”. White fat stores calories. However, there’s another type of fat: brown fat. Brown fat is a “good” fat found in the bodies of mammals, which has a large role in how rapidly our bodies burn calories. It produces as much as 300 times more heat than any other tissue in the body.
As positive as brown fat seems to be, our lifestyles may be harming it. A new study found that eating high-calorie foods leads to the dysfunction of brown fat cells causing them to ‘whiten’. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine discovered that over-eating leads to a cellular signaling dysfunction that causes the brown fat cells to lose neighboring blood vessels, depriving the cells of oxygen. In turn, this causes the cells to lose their mitochondria, leading to their inability to burn fatty acids and produce heat. In a nutshell, this collapse can have extensive effects on the development of metabolic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.
While the ability to preserve fat served us well in our hunter-gatherer days, having access to a continuous food supply is now harming us, and our over accumulation of white fat cells leads to obesity and other dangerous conditions. This new study highlights the important role that a healthy diet plays in overall health and the important role that brown fat plays in metabolism.
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