Obesity continues to be a growing global epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and nearly half of them are considered obese as their BMI is over 30. People who are overweight are at increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, neurological diseases, and even cancer. As the world’s population has shifted to a modern diet, more and more people are finding their energy expenditure is far less than their intake. These excess calories are storied in the adipose tissue as fat.
The adipose tissue once considered to a simple homogenized mass of fat cells has recently been discovered to be far more complicated and vital to our health. The traditional medical perspective has believed that all fat was bad and the less you had on your body (within reason) the better. However, new research has caused some in the medical community to classify this fatty adipose tissue as an organ making it on par with our heart, stomach, and brain. What has caused this new radical perspective?
Brown fat cells are formed from the same stem cells as muscle cells which means they possess some of the same energy burning characteristics as muscle. Cell biology research has shown that both brown fat and muscle contain mitochondria that produce energy by breaking down existing fat storage into usable energy. Unfortunately, most adult adipose tissue is made up of simple white fat storage.
The next step in research is understanding why and how the body decides to create white vs. brown fat.
A research team at the Yale School of Medicine conducted a mouse study that suggests it may be controlled by our brain on an unconscious level. Lead author X. Yang said “Our studies reveal white fat ‘browning’ as a highly dynamic physiological process that the brain controls. This work indicates that behavioral modifications promoted by the brain could influence how the amount of food we eat and store in fat is burned.”
Future Application of Browning Fat
If we are able to unlock this behavior modification model to increase our rate of fat browning, motivated individuals would be able to naturally speed up their metabolism and lose weight. This would be particularly helpful for the millions of people who have tried and failed to lose weight or for those who have lost substantial weight but still have fat deposits in the areas of the arms, stomach, and neck. Until then the best strategy of how to lose neck fat or other difficult to tone areas is a combination of the right diet, cardiovascular exercise, and special targeted toning exercises.