Brown fat – fat that everyone would like to have

Fat that burns fat? Although it sounds like the title of a fairytale for those who want to lose some weight, it’s not a myth or an urban legend. Brown adipose fat (BAT), or brown fat, is an extremely interesting topic. There are multiple benefits of having a higher amount of brown fat. Read on to find out more!

Anna Urbańska

The brown fat has generated much interest among scientists for years. Little is known about it and there is less research on the brown fat than there is on the more common white fat. One thing is sure though – more brown fat in a body stands for a lower chance of developing diabetes and obesity. BAT might actually be an explanation for the mythical “faster metabolism rate” and the higher calorie burn rate that is characteristic of some people. Brown fat is desirable and unlike the yellow/white fat (white adipose fat, or WAT), it does not predispose people to metabolic diseases. Sounds like a dream come true? Keep on reading!

What is brown adipose fat?

BAT is metabolically active and it constantly releases a lot of energy to heat the nearby tissues. It is packed with mitochondria, which is how it gets its brown colour. The brown fat is located inside the body and surrounds the main organs (not to be mistaken for the bad visceral fat).It is very characteristic of newborns as it helps them maintain steady core temperature.

The brown fat is mainly located:

  • in the intercoastal area,
  • in the supraclavicular region,
  • around the shoulder blades,
  • along the entire spine,
  • in the neck area,
  • near the kidneys,
  • near the adrenal glands.

Smaller (even one cell!) brown adipose tissue clusters are probably also located in various places where the white fat is located. A mix of brown fat and white fat is called “beige fat”.

Role of brown fat

The main role of brown fat is to maintain core temperature. BAT is metabolically active and it “heats” the areas where it is located by constant burning of fat in the mitochondria. Mitochondria can be compared to “furnaces” that burn fat and create heat. It is of key importance for the newborns which is why babies have the highest amount of brown fat. As we are ageing, the amount of brown fat in our bodies tends to get lower; however, it does not disappear altogether in every person.

An interesting fact: Brown fat is also present in all hibernating mammals. It is thanks to the brown fat that bears, for example, can “sleep” for a few months in the winter without having to eat!