Each of us born with the same number of adipocytes that we carry into adulthood. However, these cells can change in size or volume depending on the amount of fat the body stores. Someone who is lean has adipocytes with lower volume or size, while someone who is larger will have adipocytes that are greater in size. Factors like genetics, lifestyle habits, and hormones can all play a role in size changes of adipocytes.
There are a number of different categories of fat, however, we will explore the two most well-known: brown fat and white fat
Brown fat is a special type of fat that’s found in very small amounts in our body. It’s typically located in the sides of the neck, above the collar bone, in the shoulder and upper arms, between the shoulder blades, and along the spine. Brown fat is so small and is in such small quantities deep under the skin, it doesn’t create bulging or the appearance of fat pockets like love handles.
Brown fat really serves as a source of energy and can be activated by cold temperatures. It can also improve your blood sugar metabolism and increase your metabolic set point – making it easier to lose weight.
Research has shown that certain groups of people tend to have more brown fat than others, and there appears to be direct correlations between the activation of brown fat and metabolic measures of good health. For example:
- Slender people have more brown fat than obese people do
- Younger people have more brown fat than elderly people
- People with normal blood sugar levels have more brown fat than those with high blood sugar
Brown fat is actually a good thing!
White fat is the fat that most people try to avoid accumulating. White fat cells store energy, affect hormone production and hunger levels, and can comprise of up to 20-25 percent of body weight! Unlike brown fat, white fat is abundant throughout the body. It’s actually the fat that creates bulges that we can see.
While white fat sounds like it’s a bad thing, it does have some benefits including regulating body temperature and insulating vital organs.
White fat is the target of all fat reduction procedures.