What is brown fat and why is it important to develop it? Bubnis

We all know the fat, the belly fat. The one we would like to see disappear. This fat, depending on its location on or in the body, will have different roles. Thus, the subcutaneous fat, distributed all over the body, mainly under the skin, is our main energy reserve. It accumulates mainly because of the influence of diet and certain biological or genetic considerations. For example, it is natural and normal for a woman to have a higher percentage of fat than a man. This is just the way nature is. This type of tissue is made up of cells, the adipocytes, which are white. White because they contain a lot of fat and are not very active. Their role is one of reserve. This tissue is called white fat.

Another similar tissue is abdominal fat. Different from the first, this tissue also contains white adipocytes. Little metabolic activity but a lot of inflammation. It is also called visceral fat. Its increase is mainly related to poor nutrition. In addition, visceral fat is an important risk factor for metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

There is a third type of fat in the body. Babies at birth have a large portion of their body fat made up of this 3rd type. This is called brown fat. Unlike the first two, this tissue is metabolically very active. Yes, these are adipocytes, which are fat cells that store fat. But, unlike the other two, this tissue has other functions for an efficient use of fat. The cells are brown because in addition to the fat, they have a whole range of organelles (internal structures of the cells) whose function is to use these fats, to burn them to make energy and heat. Among others, they are very rich in mitochondria. The mitochondria are responsible for the manufacture of energy by the cells. Brown fat cells have as many mitochondria as muscle cells, which gives an idea of their ability to develop energy. It can even be said that the more brown fat people have compared to white fat, the healthier they are. In fact, in a survey of more than 50,000 people, a direct link was found between the high proportion of brown fat and protection against chronic diseases, Becher, especially for heart disease. Harms

Cold adaptation that increases brown fat also increases the ability to burn glucose and fatty acids. Iwen

If, unlike abdominal fat, brown fat is a tissue that helps with health, metabolic health, how can we increase it?

It is possible to increase the amount of brown fat and even "brown out" white fat!

There are 2 ways. Intense, long-term exercise, but the most effective way is... exposure to the cold!

Have you noticed, if you live in Quebec or in a northern region, that the same "3 degrees Celsius" will not have the same effect in October as in March? In October, 3 degrees is very cold. But in March or even in February at the end of winter, that 3 degrees makes us want to strip off our clothes. We are thirsty for sunshine and it even seems warm!!!

This phenomenon is called thermo-adaptation. We can reproduce this phenomenon and even amplify it to the point of developing even more brown fat through voluntary exposure to cold. Indeed, exposure to cold stimulates the development of brown fat cells to the detriment of white fat cells. We will say that the cells turn brown. They develop more capacity to make energy. They create new mitochondria. Finlin

In addition, brown fat is very active and is associated with thinness. Devlin

Thus, the more brown fat the body develops, the more it uses its white fat. As a result, the more brown fat you develop, the easier it is to lose weight because your metabolism is activated.

There is a big difference between being exposed to the cold and being cold. Being cold makes you shiver and makes you tired. Hence the expression "getting cold". You don't want to be cold and shiver. Therefore, exposure to the cold must be done gradually to increase tolerance, even pleasure!

Here, we are talking about thermalism, the approach of Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) in Germany. Or more recently, Win Hof, alias the Iceman, holder of all records for resistance to cold.


Develop your brown fat at home.

To maximize your brown fat and your metabolic health, you need to expose yourself to the cold. You don't need to stay under the ice like Wim Hof. You simply need to stimulate this tissue to develop at the expense of white fat.


The cold shower

Start gently at the end of the usual hot shower, turn off the hot water. You can start with the feet. It is easier and the shock is less violent. A few seconds or more depending on your personal tolerance.

Observe your feelings. Welcome the cold as a new but not dangerous sensation. It is obvious that your emotions will scream at you: "Get out of there!" but your intelligence, your full consciousness, if you prefer, will tell you: "No, you won't die from it... look, this sensation is curious," etc.

Gradually, move the stream up the body.

Have fun with the feeling.

How far can you go?

Once you accept the cold shower on the body, relax. Observe. What is happening?

How long can you stay in the pleasure?

You'll see that as you try more and more, the duration of the cold shower will increase. So will the benefits.


The cold bath

Father Kneipp recommended alternating hot and cold baths. After a sauna, whatever the type or your preference, he suggested different types of baths. Either the one for the legs, the one for the arms or the complete immersion in cold water at around 10 degrees Celsius.

If you have access to a cold bath, the experience after the heat and sweat is very invigorating.

In the winter, you can even push the experience. After the heat, rolling around in the snow is really something to do at least once in your life...

If you prefer Wim Hof's approach, he proposes, eventually, to skip the heat part and "jump" directly to the cold. He proposes a whole breathing technique based on the Toumo breathing of Tibet to increase your resistance to cold.

No matter how, developing your cold resistance increases your brown fat and your cardio-metabolic health.

A word of caution. If you are in poor health or already have heart disease, talk to your doctor. Cold weather is not forbidden, but you should go in gradually so as not to aggravate your condition.

See you outside to play in the snow J!



  • Bubnis D. Brown Fat: What You Should Know. Healthline. 17 mars 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/brown-fat#How-to-get-brown-fat
  • Becher T, Palanisamy S, Kramer DJ, Eljalby M, Marx SJ, Wibmer AG, Butler SD, Jiang CS, Vaughan R, Schöder H, Mark A, Cohen P. Brown adipose tissue is associated with cardiometabolic health. Nat Med. 2021 Jan 4. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-1126-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33398160. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1126-7
  • Finlin BS, Confides AL, Zhu B, Boulanger MC, Memetimin H, Taylor KW, Johnson ZR, Westgate PM, Dupont-Versteegden EE, Kern PA. Adipose Tissue Mast Cells Promote Human Adipose Beiging in Response to Cold. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 17;9(1):8658. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45136-9. PMID: 31209239; PMCID: PMC6572779.
  • Harms M, Seale P. Brown and beige fat: development, function and therapeutic potential. Nat Med. 2013 Oct;19(10):1252-63. doi: 10.1038/nm.3361. PMID: 24100998. https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.3361
  • Iwen KA, Backhaus J, Cassens M, Waltl M, Hedesan OC, Merkel M, Heeren J, Sina C, Rademacher L, Windjäger A, Haug AR, Kiefer FW, Lehnert H, Schmid SM. Cold-Induced Brown Adipose Tissue Activity Alters Plasma Fatty Acids and Improves Glucose Metabolism in Men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Nov 1;102(11):4226-4234. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-01250. PMID: 28945846. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/102/11/4226/4117435
  • Devlin MJ. The "Skinny" on brown fat, obesity, and bone. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2015 Feb;156 Suppl 59:98-115. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22661. PMID: 25388370. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/110636
  • References for Père Sebastian Kneipp · https://shop.kneipp.com/fr_fr/entreprise/lentreprise/lhistoire-de-la-marque-comment-tout-a-commence/ · https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Kneipp
  • Reference Wim Hof https://www.wimhofmethod.com/
  • https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Hof