Burn Fat and Increase Energy with Nutrients that Stimulate Brown Adipose Tissue

April 3, 2017 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Burn Fat and Increase Energy with Nutrients that Stimulate Brown Adipose Tissue
Activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) is at the forefront of obesity and metabolic research. Researchers have been working hard to understand what activates brown adipose tissue and if white adipose tissue (WAT) can be remodeled into brown adipose tissue. The answer is yes; our fat tissues can change to become more metabolically active.

As the research continues to reveal what brown adipose tissue does in adults, it is clear that brown adipose tissue activation is essential to healthy metabolism. Brown adipose tissue is fit fat whereas white adipose tissue is more problematic, unhealthy, less metabolically active tissue. Once thought impossible, research now shows that we can actually change white adipose tissue to brown adipose tissue. At the forefront of this are some key nutrients. You do not have to be destined to have unhealthy metabolism and sickly fat. The body can change!

White Adipose Tissue and Brown Adipose Tissue


Body fat consists primarily of white fat/white adipose tissue, brown fat/brown adipose tissue, and a more recently discovered in-between colored fat cell, called beige fat. Beige adipose tissue is present in white adipose tissue and can be triggered to differentiate into more brown adipose tissue if given a chance. Brown fat is made up of several small fat droplets inside a fat cell, whereas white fat has a single large fat droplet inside the cell. Brown fat gets its darker color as a result of a higher number of blood vessels and high presence of mitochondria containing iron.

Brown adipose tissue generates heat by burning fat and glucose or calories, whereas white adipose tissue stores calories. Cold temperatures, a fever, and the sympathetic autonomic nervous system (adrenaline/norepinephrine) activates brown adipose tissue metabolism which keeps us warm without shivering. Brown fat is more prevalent in newborns and infants as it is needed for body temperature regulation and heat production. It used to be thought that adults had little to no brown fat, but that is not accurate.

Ongoing research shows us that various nutrients may help activate or even remodel white adipose tissue into beige and brown adipose tissue. This is called a “browning effect”. The discovery that white adipose tissue can transform into beige and brown adipose tissue cells has scientists excited. It opens up the understanding of how to make unhealthy white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue for improved fat burning and weight loss. This offers life changing knowledge.

White adipose tissue or brown adipose tissue formation depends on several nutrients, cold temperatures, sympathetic nervous system activation, T3 activated thyroid hormone, the hormones leptin and adiponectin, and signaling compounds like SIRT1 and AMPK. SIRT1 is an enzyme connected with cellular aging and gene expression. SIRT1 remodels white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue and controls both glucose and lipid metabolism in the liver, turns on the circadian metabolic clocks, and helps the hypothalamus appraise nutritional needs.

When SIRT1 is deficient, there is less thermal burning of calories, greater difficulty with obesity, and more severe insulin resistance. AMPK is a master enzyme switch directly involved with turning on metabolism, blood sugar, and mitochondria while improving energy production and exercise tolerance. Nutrients that help make new beige fat cells or protect brown adipose tissue, and help mitochondria may simultaneously help signaling compounds of SIRT1 and AMPK. At the crux of this multi-dimensional approach of turning white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue, nutrients to manage SIRT1 and AMPK are resveratrol, quercetin, and curcumin.

Resveratrol, Quercetin, and Curcumin Help Remodel and Activate Brown Adipose Tissue


Resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxidant obtained from grapes and other plant sources, provides promising anti-obesity therapy across generations in the minds of scientists. It has been particularly highlighted with remodeling white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue, along with supporting the metabolic, fat burning signaling compounds SIRT1 and AMPK. Resveratrol also supports mitochondria within fat cells from dysfunction and increased their activity of burning fatty acids and glucose to produce energy.

Recent literature demonstrated the power of resveratrol in obesity management in pregnancy and those genetically at risk for obese offspring. The study evaluated obese pregnant mice fed a high fat diet and if obesity could be prevented in the offspring. Some of the pregnant animals were given resveratrol, others were not. The mother pups and the male offspring that were fed resveratrol during pregnancy and lactation ended up with healthier beige adipose tissue and were able to prevent obesity. Scientists speculate that by providing this type of support with nutrients that stimulate the production of new beige and brown adipose tissues, the cycle of obesity may be stopped from generation to generation.

Quercetin, a natural flavonoid found in onions, apples and other produce was found to turn on the browning effect or remodel white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue in animal and cell studies. Quercetin did this by activating AMPK, the master enzyme switch that is turned off in diabetes and obesity.

Curcumin helps remodel white fat cells into brown fat cells. In addition, curcumin was found to decrease body weight and fat mass and improve cold tolerance in animals. Curcumin supports the sympathetic nervous system activation of white adipose tissue to remodel into brown adipose tissue. Curcumin also helps AMPK activation.

Other Helpful Nutrients for Brown Adipose Tissue


L-arginine, an amino acid, plays an important role in regulating brown adipose tissue growth and development. L-arginine helps burn fatty acids and glucose and is deeply involved with the making of new mitochondria. Recent studies show that L-arginine reduces white adipose tissue in genetically or diet-induced obese animals and humans with type 2 diabetes. L-arginine increases brown adipose tissue growth by regulating gene expression, nitric oxide management and helps the body make protein rather than white fat cells.

Cinnamon cassia extract is well-known for it very positive blood sugar and diabetes support. Cinnamon extract also helps engage the sympathetic nervous system to turn on fat burning. Like green tea extract, cinnamon extract is considered a “browning agent” for brown adipose tissue.

Olive leaf extract (oleuropein) derived from extra virgin olive oil helps decrease abdominal fat mass from high fat diets. Olive leaf extract and olive oil help engage the neurological activation for brown adipose tissue activity and turn on gene signals for fat burning as seen in recent literature. Carotenoids, melatonin and omega-3 fish oil DHA also help SIRT1 and remodel white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue.

Thyroid Hormone


T3, the active form of thyroid hormone, is critical for activation of brown fat to produce heat. It is necessary for remodeling of white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue. Adequate T3 thyroid hormone is necessary for the activation of SIRT1 and is crucial for activating the sympathetic nervous system’s role in brown adipose tissue and heat production. Guggulsterone, which is the active component in the herb gugulipid, has been shown to help activate thyroid function. Research suggests guggulsterone has good potential to act as a “browning agent” for brown adipose tissue.

Brown Adipose Tissue Interference


Just as important as things that stimulate brown adipose tissue development for weight management is to make sure that things that inhibit brown adipose tissue development are balanced or reduced. Steroids, i.e. mineralcorticoids and glucocorticoids drugs, estrogens, serotonin, TGF-beta, and other compounds when out of balance with the rest of the body may interfere with white adipose tissue remodeling into brown adipose tissue. It is suspected that the blockage of this pathway with steroids and estrogens in medicine is a significant reason for the drug-induced obesity.

Optimizing brown fat which turns on thermogenesis and a healthier metabolism is possible. It used to be thought that adults did not have appreciable brown fat and that white fat was simply a calorie storage site. Understanding fat as an endocrine organ and that its cells can be favorably changed opens the door for opportunity and health for all. The knowledge also helps us protect and support the next generation in getting them off to a healthy start.

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