Brown Fat: What is It?

April 18, 2011

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fat cellsSomething many of us in the weight loss community have been following lately is the research on brown fat, a.k.a. brown adipose tissue, or BAT.

Why are we so interested? Preliminary research suggests this special kind of fat, found mostly at the back of the neck and along the base of the spine, seems to be connected with helping control and regulate one’s metabolism and weight.

What we’re finding is that “naturally thin” people seem to have a higher percentage of brown fat than those who struggle with their weight. We aren’t sure yet if it’s a genetic luck of the draw, something about how these people live that increases brown fat stores, or a little bit of both.

Something else we are trying to figure out is how we can help people’s bodies make and store more brown fat, so they too can reap the benefits of this so-called “good body fat.”

Currently the only product I know of that has been shown in scientific studies to help increase brown fat is a sweet pepper-based supplement called Capsiate Natura made by the Ajinomoto Co. We carry this supplement at The Center for Medical Weight Loss and recommend it to many of our patients as part of their overall weight loss program.

Of course, just taking this supplement won’t solve one’s weight issues, no matter how much we wish that were the case! But when paired with a balanced reduced-calorie eating plan, increased exercise, behavioral changes, and increased support, it does seem to aid in the process, as well as help people keep the weight off long-term.

Why peppers seem to boost metabolism or brown fat stores is yet to be fully understood, but we do know that people who live in areas of the world with a spicy diet do tend to have fewer weight issues.

Another recent study speculated that turning down the heat at home or in the office might also help build brown fat stores.

In time, perhaps science will develop a prescription medication that will build brown fat and allow everyone to be able to eat like those “naturally thin” people who never seem to gain weight, even if they eat things like five slices of pizza at lunch!

But for now, it still boils down to a multifaceted, several-pronged attack on excess weight. Stay tuned for more on brown fat. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing much more about this special type of fat in the years to come.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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