A study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism shows that it's possible to turn bad body fat into good fat.
But first, the difference. Bad fat, or white fat, is what we commonly know as flab. It's what makes up the apple shape, the muffin top, the beer belly. It raises our risk of heart disease and diabetes and also slows down our metabolism. On the other hand, the good fat, composed of brown fat cells, actually burns calories and releases energy as heat.
According to the research, the bad white fat can be turned into something resembling brown fat through severe and prolonged adrenaline-releasing stress. Adrenaline switches on UCP1, a protein released by the mitochondria (the powerhouse or the combustion engines of the cell) which brown cells have a lot of. And when this happens, the mitochondria will burn the calories.
So what counts as "severe and prolonged adrenaline-releasing stress"? The researchers were really serious about how intense the stress was. Their model was burn trauma, so they looked at the fat of 72 patients that had severe burns on 50 percent of their bodies and compared them to that of 19 healthy people.
Researchers found that over time the fat samples in burn patients had a gradual shift due to the injury. The molecular and functional characteristics of white fat became those of brown fat.
Because it's definitely not advisable that you set yourself aflame just to have calorie-burning fat for obvious reasons, other scientists are finding ways to make the bad fat good. So far they're trying to come up with pills and working on stem cell implants.
If popping pills and having implants scare you, there are other ways to induce adrenaline release. They're not as severe as burn trauma, but doing them can help turn bad fat to good:
1. Do high-intensity workouts. They activate your adrenal glands, hence releasing adrenaline. Exercise places moderate stress on the body.
2. Go on a hike or do other sports. In the case of hiking, the exercise and the high altitude will help your body release more adrenaline. And because it's an exhilarating activity, the feeling of danger (from falling off the edge, for instance) will release adrenaline as a natural defense. As for doing other sports, the audience and the competition will get the adrenaline flowing through you.
3. Fall in love or have sex. It increases your adrenaline, making you feel excited and euphoric.
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