Chapter 8: Human Tissue Fat
It is now commonly accepted that the human body contains two types of fat. The first is White Adipose Tissue, known as WAT, or white fat. The protein we consume and do not use for energy is converted to fat, which stays in our blood. This excess is stored as fatty oil, and is very difficult for the body to burn off.
The second type of fat is called Brown Adipose Tissue, also known as BAT, or “brown fat.” This has been a fairly recent discovery by the scientific community. We have learned that brown fat actually burns up the white fat in our bodies.1 It does this by increasing the body’s temperature, which will cause the white fat to be burned off. Babies have this type of fat, and it was recently discovered that adults have some as well. Small pockets of it are on our shoulders, middle spine, and behind our necks. The fat is brown because of the density of the mitochondria. An uncoupling protein in the inner membrane of these mitochondria helps the fat cells control our body temperature. Mitochondria convert oxygen and glucose into energy. If you exercise in a cold area, the uncoupling protein in the mitochondria increases in the cell’s temperature, which will burn off the white fat.
Being obese contributes to diabetes. When we eat too much, our bodies cannot burn off the white fat. But, if we have more brown fat, it will burn off our white fat and diabetes will not develop. With more brown fat, we do not have to worry about diabetes.
How can we make brown fat? Exercise, especially in temperatures that are cool, but not freezing, creates it. The goal is to cause your muscles to produce the hormone Irisin. It is speculated that Irisin production increases when we exercise in lower temperatures.2 When Irisin is released, it makes our brown fat heat up the body and burn off the white fat. Brown fat uses the glucose in our bloodstream, therefore preventing the creation of white fat. As far as exercising goes, I’m not saying to do it in a walk-in freezer, but if you can exercise in a temperature lower than what you are used to, say exercising in a room that is 65 degrees, it really helps to produce brown fat. Temperatures are naturally cooler in the morning. If it is hot outside, turn up the air conditioner overnight to decrease the air temperature for the morning. The morning is a perfect time to exercise because it is still cool. Or, you may go into your basement to exercise, because it is always cooler there. All of this will increase the amount of brown fat in your body. More brown fat is very important because it means more mitochondria. These mitochondria not only burn off white fat and glucose, but they also contain DNA and RNA, which promote the cell’s “breathing.” With this, mitochondria can produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which gives us energy and will improve the central nervous system.
As I previously wrote, we want to maintain a body temperature of between 36.5 and 37.5 degrees Celsius. Raising our temperature by just one degree makes our immune system up to 500% stronger. Thus, increasing our temperature through exercise not only helps with BAT, but it also staves off illnesses and diseases, such as strep throat and the flu.
Brown fat is also found in animals. For example, a bear hibernates in the winter. How does his body adjust for outside temperatures, so that he does not freeze while he sleeps? His body uses the brown fat. Scientists discovered that mammals, such as mice, also have WAT and BAT. Research shows that BAT acts like a heater in the body by burning out the WAT and glucose in animals. Just like us, this increases their body temperatures. This brown fat helps the bear survive winter.
To further understand how BAT melts away WAT, let us equate this to something we can all relate to. Picture a saucepan. Assume that butter represents WAT, the saucepan represents the body, and the burner represents BAT. Remember, BAT is created through Ki-gong exercise and training.
The burner (BAT) heats up the saucepan. Now, we throw in the butter, which represents WAT. Because the pan is hot, what happens to the butter? It quickly starts to dissolve. Then, it bubbles up ferociously and it leaves the pan through evaporation. After a very short time, the butter is gone. By turning on the burner of our body through exercise, we burn off the butter.
One scientific study showed that if we have a 50 grams BAT increase, our metabolism increases 20%. In another test, scientists subjected mice to cooler temperatures. In this study, 30% of the WAT in the cells of the mice was converted to BAT because the mice were cold and shivering and were made to exercise. This is the same for us.
People who live in colder climates tend not to exercise as much as those who live in warmer climates. As a result, they have, and create, less BAT. After all, let us be realistic. Would you want to take your body out of its temperature comfort zone to exercise in a cold environment? Probably not. But, during colder weather, you need to force yourself to exercise. This will heat up your body and get rid of WAT.
One positive side effect of exercise is that it increases your energy over time. This is because exercise increases the amount of mitochondria, which leads to more ATP (energy). Unfortunately, obese people rarely experience the benefits of BAT. This is because their activity level is much, much lower than that of relatively muscular people. There is a saying that, “Dry firewood means good fire.” What does this mean? Well, our upper bodies are comprised of 30% muscle, the lower 70%. Muscle is the dry firewood, which is heated up during exercise. Once heated, it “catches fire” and burns off stubborn fat. Muscles that are used and strengthened become more like dry firewood; they can burn off calories much more efficiently.
How can we improve our lower body muscles? These muscles are contained in our legs, calves, and bottoms. They can be strengthened by body exercises such as bodyweight squats, lunges, calf raises, skating, walking, running, and back kicks. The list is really endless. These muscles are also built up in Taekwondo, by practicing martial arts stances. Another thing you can do is exercises that focus on speed. Faster movements cause veins to push blood back to the heart more quickly, resulting in better oxygenated blood. To practice this, you can do knee-up exercises with 80-100 counts a minute. You will probably have to work up to this. Another example would be the short steps used to attack and retreat in Taekwondo sparring. Look up Taekwondo sparring and watch the participants’ footwork for an example. When you move your legs, they will get stronger and you will build muscle. Then, the BAT hormone comes out; it is released and you know what happens from there.
People who have longer life spans often live in mountainous regions or islands like those found in the countries of Georgia, Okinawa, Je Joo, or Bolivia. What contributes to their long life? The inhabitants do a lot of hard work, such as farming, digging, cutting down brush with a sickle, etc. They carry water to the crops when it does not rain. They harvest the plants. In other words, they do labor intensive work. In a nutshell…they exercise. They also have no electricity and, therefore, no artificial light. They sleep and wake with the sunset and sunrise. This natural sleep pattern, combined with exercise, produces a very important growth hormone. This growth hormone causes adolescents to grow, and allows adults to maintain their health. In traditional Ki theory, it is believed that sleeping from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. is when this hormone is made. Modern science has found that one to four hours of deep sleep also makes this hormone. Additionally, the growth hormone is released one to two hours after intense exercise. This translates to muscle, which translates to more energy, which translates to being healthy.
See Brown Fat, White Fat, Good Fat, Bad Fat. The article reiterates that, “Brown fat cells are packed with energy generating powerhouses called mitochondria…which gives them their brown color.” A study led by Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center showed that brown fat caused mice to burn off more calories when they were overfed.
See Shivering Triggers Brown Fat to Produce Heat and Burn Calories. A team led by Dr. Francesco S. Celi, who is now at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, looked at the impact of cold exposure on irisin levels. Participants were exposed to 80 to 53°F. At 53°F, their energy expenditure rose by an average of 48%. There was also a dramatic increase in irisin levels.