The more brown fat you have, the more calories you burn.
Brown Fat vs. White Fat
Maybe you're lean, or relatively lean. You probably think you got that way by pushing the sled around on Tuesday afternoons, or because of that one week where you got real serious about dieting and only ate nothing but skinless, organic, free-range, not sullied by roosters, free-trade, NFL-sanctioned chicken breasts and celery sprouts. Or, maybe you're just like Chuck Norris and dietary fat just gives you a free pass because it's too damn scared to charge you the nine calories per gram.
All of that may play a part in your leanness, but it's more likely due to you having superb insulin sensitivity and a generous heaping of something called brown fat.
Unlike regular white fat, which stores calories, brown fat is filled with ravenous mitochondria that burn energy and release heat. Everybody has some brown fat, but naturally lean people – the lucky bastards – have more.
Let's say you're carrying just 50 grams of brown fat. That seemingly paltry amount can burn an extra 300 to 500 calories a day, which is like jumping rope for a half hour. That's crazy good.
Because of its energy-burning potential, researchers have long sought out compounds or substances that would increase the amount of brown fat a human carries. It turns out there might already be a particularly powerful fat-converting substance around, and it's been under our noses the whole time.
Cyanadin 3-glucoside (C3G)
This is a nutrient well known for its anti-obesity effects, but most of those effects have, to this point, largely been chalked up to C3G's effects on selective insulin sensitivity, insulin signaling, and glucose and nutrient management in general. (These same traits also help give the compound its famed muscle-building effects.)
However, Japanese researchers have just discovered that C3G also turns white fat cells brown, meaning that ordinary fat-storing white cells are being converted into energy-burning brown cells.
Their paper, published recently in the Journal of Biochemistry, described how C3G "induced phenotypic changes to white adipocytes (fat cells)." These changes included increased mitochondrial content, which is the hallmark trait of brown fat cells. The C3G also promoted "preadipocyte differentiation," which means it coaxed cute, little baby fat cells into going brown.
A Diverse Substance
All of this helps confirm that C3G (sold as Indigo-3G®) is awesome on several different levels. It has profound effects on insulin sensitivity and management, is hugely anti-inflammatory, and, as a flavonoid with diverse antioxidant and nutritive properties, probably has dozens of yet-to-be discovered effects on overall health.
And now it looks like we can add conversion of white fat-storage cells to brown energy-burning cells to its resume.
- Toshiya Matsukawa, Myra O. Villareal, Hideko Motojima, Hiroko Isoda. "Increasing cAMP levels of preadipocytes by cyanidin-3-glucoside treatment induces the formation of beige phenotypes in 3T3-L1 adipocytes." Journal of Biochemistry, February 2017, Volume 40, pages 77–85.