What is brown fat in the body?

The subject of brown fat has grown in popularity, partly due to the recent increase in people using cold water therapy. This post will look to answer in a simple format, the question of what is brown fat in the body. We will also cover the function of brown fat and the different ways we can look to increase brown fat.

For those of us trying to achieve a greater level of health day to day, it may be important for you to understand the difference between the types of fats in our body, especially their impact on metabolism and energy storage.

What is brown fat?

Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue stores more energy in a smaller space when compared to white fat. Brown fat has a darker colour from its high level of mitochondria. Mitochondria’s main function is to produce the energy required for the survival and function of cells.

Brown fat has an interesting process called thermogenesis, this essentially creates heat when brown fat is burned, which also burns calories. It’s believed that as we grow older the level of brown fat we contain naturally decreases, it’s been shown that infants have a large amount of brown fat. In adults, brown fat is typically stored around the shoulders and neck.

What is white fat?

White fat, also known as white adipose tissue is what the majority of fat in our adult bodies is. White fat is the typical fat that we’ve been taught to know during our lives. This type of fat is made up of large droplets of fat and helps keep us warm by providing insulation for our organs.

When we consume excess calories, this type of fat is used as storage space. Too much white fat in the body can cause obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

What does brown fat do?

Brown fat breaks down fat and glucose in order to create heat in the body which helps maintain body temperature. This process of thermogenesis can be particularly useful in cold environments.

Those with higher levels of brown fat tend to be leaner and have a reduced risk of diseases associated with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. As such, brown fat has been highly regarded as a potential treatment for obesity and metabolic issues.

With increased levels of brown fat comes greater levels of mitochondria which are essential for cellular energy production. Mitochondria have also been found to have a key role in the aging process and age-related disease, as well as immune function.

How can we increase brown fat?

Brown fat has been linked to more effective glucose regulation, lower risk of heart disease, and supports strong fat metabolism. Many of us could benefit from increasing the levels of brown fat in our bodies, but how do we do that?

  • Cold exposure
  • Exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet that activates brown fat production

Cold exposure

As brown fat is activated at lower temperatures, it’s been suggested that cold exposure can help increase the amount of brown fat in your body. The aim would be to be as cold as you can be without shivering. Cold exposure can take the form of a cold shower or an ice bath.

It has been pointed out by Andrew Huberman that studies suggest that 11 minutes a week of cold exposure is enough to see a noticeable increase of brown fat in the body.


As well as exercise being a proven way to maintain good health, it has also been found to promote lipolysis which can actually help turn white fat into brown fat, a process known as “browning”.

Not enough studies have been carried out to determine what form of exercise is best for producing brown fat in the body. It’s been suggested that high-intensity training such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help build brown fat.

Balanced diet

Certain foods and spices have been found to activate the “browning” of fat cells, including:

  • Turmeric: Curcumin is the main active ingredient which is a strong anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity compound.
  • Green tea
  • Fish oil: omega-3 fatty acids help activate thermogenesis, as well as being an anti-inflammatory.
  • Chilli peppers: These contain capsaicin which improves fat oxidation and helps burn energy.

Increasing the level of brown fat in our bodies can have a positive impact on our health. By improving the quality of life through feeling stronger and more immune to disease. These factors should help support our day-to-day management of stress.





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