Q: I keep hearing about brown fat and how you should try to get more inside your body. I thought accumulating fat was unhealthy. Can you explain? - Chaz G., Rockford, Illinois
A: People have two kinds of fat in their body. White fat stores excess calories. When it accumulates around the waist, it's associated with inflammation and metabolic disruption that can lead to obesity and diabetes. Brown fat, on the other hand, generates body warmth by breaking down blood sugar and fat molecules to create heat. This uses energy (calories) and is why the more brown fat you have, the lower your risk of obesity. Newborns have the greatest proportion of brown fat, and it decreases by more than 95% as we age.
- Cold temperatures activate brown fat. For example, research published in the journal Diabetes says you can activate brown fat if you're exposed to temperatures around 66 F for two hours a day (wearing light - or no - clothing).
- Another way to increase the activity of your brown fat is to get 300 minutes of exercise weekly. That stimulates production of the protein irisin, which is lacking in folks with obesity, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Endocrinology. Irisin, like brown fat, is involved in thermoregulation (body temperature and calorie burning).
- Bonus: Caffeine also stimulates production of brown fat - so enjoy.
Activating brown fat does more than help you control your weight and get rid of visceral fat. According to a new study in Nature, people with the most detectable brown fat have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension and congestive heart failure. And, as Dr. Mike explains in his upcoming book "The Great Age Reboot," one day we may have brown-fat-stimulating medical therapies. Scientists have already successfully changed white fat into pluripotent fat and then turned that into brown fat in animals.
Q: Can you explain about the newly-identified subtypes of prediabetes? I ask because my doc is saying I am in a high-risk group for developing Type 2 diabetes and need to start taking medication. - Inez D., Tempe, Arizona
A: Your doctor must be up on the latest research! A new study from Germany's Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases looked at metabolic markers such as blood glucose levels, liver fat, body fat distribution, blood lipid levels and genetic risk and determined which of them put folks at the greatest risk for developing full-blown diabetes. They were able to track people in their study group for 25 years.
The findings shake out like this: People with prediabetes who are at greatest risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and having other health challenges such as obesity and heart, liver and kidney disease fall into three categories. They are folks who have fatty liver disease and are insulin resistant, those who produce too little insulin (that tends to happen after someone is insulin resistant for a while), and those who have kidney damage even before diabetes is diagnosed.
If you fall into any one of these subcategories, it is time to begin an aggressive war to roll back your risks. You may well develop diabetes in the next few years, and you want to avoid that.
Upgrading your nutrition, achieving a healthy weight and increasing your physical activity are the first steps you need to take. We suggest you work with a diabetes educator, a nutritionist and a physical therapist or exercise trainer, plus join a support group and adopt a stress-management routine to help you stay focused. For some people this is enough to overcome prediabetes and completely erase your risk - if you stick with the lifestyle improvements. You may need medication, and there are many to choose from that can help with insulin resistance and production, weight loss, glucose levels, even kidney problems. You have an opportunity to transform your future. Embrace it.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.