Know your fat cells

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Whether it is for health reasons or aesthetic purposes, most individuals are on a mission to lose weight. Fluctuating weight in small numbers is generally nothing more than a change in water retention based on food choices or activity level.

But it is the weight gain that sticks that needs to be addressed. For most individuals the source of their permanent weight gain is increased body fat.

Fat cells are broken into two categories: brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is metabolically active, helping the body to make heat.

It is something humans are born with to keep babies warm. Brown fat begins to disappear once babies start eating and layers of white fat cells develop.

Brown fat converts food to energy unlike white fat that stores energy.

White fat cells originally develop in the fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy and continue developing at the onset of puberty.

This type of fat is found under the skin, surrounding organs or in the muscles. It is important in energy metabolism and heat insulation. After puberty, the number of your fat cells generally stay the same unless a large weight gain is experienced in adulthood.

Scientists believe that increasing brown fat activation can help promote weight loss.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health shows that you can increase your energy expenditure and brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity.

The study reported that individuals who slept overnight in a room that was nine degrees cooler, at 66 degrees instead of 75 degrees, increased their energy expenditure by 5 percent and BAT activity by 10 percent.

Until the magic solution for developing more brown fat comes about, we must understand how the body stores fat and breaks it down.

When you eat, the food is broken down and absorbed from the blood into the organs, muscles and fat cells.

Protein is broken down into amino acids, carbohydrates into glucose and fat into fatty acids.

The unused protein, carbohydrates and fats get stored in the fat cells, as well as in the blood vessels of muscle and heart tissues.

However, converting and storing excess protein or carbohydrates as fat in a fat cell isn't as energy efficient as storing dietary fat, meaning that it is easier for the body to store fat in the fat cells.

When you exercise, reduce your food intake or skip eating altogether, the body draws on stored energy. Regardless of your activity level, the body is always using energy to stay alive.

Because the body's primary source of energy is glucose, the body first breaks down carbohydrates. Glucose is the sole energy source for some vital cells such as brain cells. After this, the body then breaks down fat for energy.

Since fat cells grow and shrink based on food intake and activity level, it is recommended that you consume a balanced diet that contains adequate amounts of protein, carbs and fats and exercise most days of the week.