By Dr. Michael Brandon
Today let's talk about how to add more fat to our bodies. Yep, you read it correctly, but let's add some details. There is two main types of fat, or adipose tissue, that we have. The fat that we all think about that collects around our abdomen and buttocks is white adipose tissue (WAT). It is proinflammatory, a source of bodily calories, and in general, undesired in excess. WAT is the main reason many exercise and try to eat sensibly.
Then there is BAT, or brown adipose tissue, which has gotten increased attention over the last few years. It has been known about for decades in small mammals and human infants, but only recently discovered to be in adults as well. Why is it of interest? Good question!
Brown fat is thermogenic, which in short means that it mostly burns off calories, including glucose(body sugar) into heat to keep the body warm. It is thought to be a contributing reason as to why those who live in colder climates have a higher resting metabolism, or why that 1 person we all know can eat 4 buffets a day and still not gain any weight. It also helps lower blood triglycerides and cholesterol to slow down the development of conditions like atherosclerosis. We have the most BAT as babies, and it decreases as we age, which may be a major reason as to why its harder to lose weight as we increase in years.
Researchers have been trying to find a drug to increase or stimulate this BAT to help with weight loss, but we figure, why not BioHack it? In fact, there has been research done that suggests a few ways to increase the amount of brown fat we have, which should raise our metabolism.
The most known and studied way to increase brown fat is to stay cool. Being cold obviously causes us to shiver, but over time (as little as bouts of 10 minutes in some studies) the shivering stops and our bodies start producing more body heat via stimulating the brown fat that we have. This is called non-shivering thermogenesis. Chronic exposure to cold, such as living in a colder environment, will add a higher percentage of brown fat as an adaptive mechanism to stay warmer longer.
A few studies have emerged subjects into ice baths for several times a day which caused both an increase in BAT, and as suspected, an increase in basal metabolic rate. BAT has also been increased by taking people into a colder environment for 10 days, which also showed an increase in BAT activity, showing that at least small changes can be made relatively quickly.
Another method to increase BAT instead of keeping your body cold, is making your tongue hot. Capsaicin is a compound found in many hot peppers like cayenne, chili, and tabasco peppers. Adding more of these to your diet appears to stimulate BAT very similarly to the way cold does. It increases the bodies ability to enter non-shivering thermogenesis. Sweet peppers and ginger root also have capsaicin in them, but in much smaller amounts.
Arginine, a nonessential amino acid in adults, also appears to help with brown fat, but so far its been primarily done in rat studies only. However, it appears promising and helps with metabolism a few ways. A few studies have highly suggested that it both helps lower the body's WAT and increases BAT for a double whammy fat benefit. It also has been shown in human trials to promote muscle over fat gain as well as it being required to increased NO (nitric oxide) which both promote fat oxidation and lower fat synthesis.
If looking to increase your body's arginine concentrations, then the big hitters are turkey breast, pork loin, shrimp, lobster, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, chick peas, and dairy to name a few.
The last BAT stimulator is NE, or norepinephrine/noradrenaline. It is a major contributor to our bodies “fight or flight” response, it increases our metabolism by releases stored glucose, and increases blood flow to our muscles. It is highly known to increase the creation and differentiation of brown fat, increases it's thermogenic activity, and helps mature the BAT into it's active state.
NE also has shown to be drastically increased by regular exercise, which itself in many ways, increases metabolism. Certain foods contain tyrosine and/or other metabolites of dopamine. Fava beans for example directly have L-dopa in it, and many vegetables like tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and brussel sprouts also may help elevate levels for more NE to potentially be created. Curcumin, the most known constituent in tumeric, is even able to cross the blood brain barrier, so it may affect NE levels both systemically in the body as well as in the brain and nervous system.
Many people look for diets and drugs to lose weight, but here at Biohacker nation, we recommend keeping it simple and eating your way to a healthier fat accumulation and a healthier you. So pack on the brown fat and BioHack on!
Jobgen, W., et al. “Dietary L-Arginine Supplementation Reduces White Fat Gain and Enhances Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat Masses in Diet-Induced Obese Rats.” Journal of Nutrition, vol. 139, no. 2, 2008, pp. 230–237. Pubmed, doi:10.3945/jn.108.096362.
Lans, Anouk A.j.j. Van Der, et al. “Cold Acclimation Recruits Human Brown Fat and Increases Nonshivering Thermogenesis.” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 123, no. 8, 2013, pp. 3395–3403., doi:10.1172/jci68993.
Saito, Masayuki, and Takeshi Yoneshiro. “Capsinoids and Related Food Ingredients Activating Brown Fat Thermogenesis and Reducing Body Fat in Humans.” Current Opinion in Lipidology, vol. 24, no. 1, 2013, pp. 71–77., doi:10.1097/mol.0b013e32835a4f40
Seale, P., and M. A. Lazar. “Brown Fat in Humans: Turning up the Heat on Obesity.” Diabetes, vol. 58, no. 7, 2009, pp. 1482–1484., doi:10.2337/db09-0622
Zheng, Jia, et al. “Dietary Capsaicin and Its Anti-Obesity Potency: from Mechanism to Clinical Implications.” Bioscience Reports, vol. 37, no. 3, 2017, doi:10.1042/bsr20170286.
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