9 Ways to Activate Your Brown Fat and Slim Down Faster

Eat more apples—with the peel on

Ursolic acid—a substance that occurs in high concentrations in apple peels—increases brown fat and muscle mass, while at the same time reducing obesity and improving glucose tolerance. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, bilberry, devil’s claw, peppermint leaves, periwinkle, and hawthorn.

The skins of these fruits are chock-full of ursolic acid, a compound that helps revitalize weary, aging brown fat so that it behaves as if it were energetic and young, University of Iowa research suggests.

2. Shed weight faster with turkey breast.

Turkey breast is a top source of L-arginine, an amino acid that activates brown fat. British research shows eating 4 oz. daily could help you effortlessly shed five pounds in two months! Peanuts are also rich in L-arginine.

3. Double calorie burn with hot peppers.

Unlike white fat—which makes up the vast majority of the fat in our bodies and is used to store any excess calories we consume—brown fat actually burns calories to produce heat (under the right conditions).

In fact, when fully activated, brown fat generates three hundred times more heat than any other tissue in the body. Just two ounces of brown fat appear capable of burning several hundred calories per day—the equivalent of a 30-minute bout of exercise. Most adults have small pockets of brown fat.

Brown fat is typically located in the sides of the neck—sometimes running down into the shoulder and upper arms—and in the region just above the collarbone. Other common locations include the upper back between the shoulder blades and along the sides of the upper spine.

The amount of brown fat generally adds up to a couple of ounces at most. Because they are so small and lie deep under the skin, they don’t appear as bulges, like love handles. (Try our other proven metabolism-boosting tricks.)

Shivering in a house heated to a nippy 58 degrees prods brown fat to convert twice as many calories than usual into heat! Too chilly? Instead, consume 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder or a few jalapeño slices daily. Capsaicin — the active ingredient in peppers — energizes brown fat the same way shivering does.

4. Sip green tea.

Drink three 12-ounce mugs of green tea daily, and your brown fat will burn 5 percent more calories every day, a Swiss study shows. Green tea’s antioxidants help brown fat soak up one of its favorite sources of fuel — glucose. Tip:

Buy green tea in bags, not as loose leaves. The tea packed into bags is finely ground, which makes it easier for the antioxidants to dissolve in water and be absorbed by your body, researchers explain.

More From Woman’s World

The bodies of all mammals are stuffed with two different kinds of fat. The kind we’re better acquainted with is white fat, which insulates us, cushions our organs, and acts as an energy reserve. Brown fat is less understood, though scientists do know its primary function is to generate body heat by burning calories. It’s only in the past decade that scientists discovered that human adults even store brown fat, but now that they’re aware of it, the search for how to exploit it for weight loss is on.

One option that’s emerged is drinking coffee. In a study released Monday in Scientific Reports scientists reveal that drinking just one cup of coffee can stimulate brown fat’s main function. Scientists theorize that it’s possible to harness its calorie-burning ability and apply it to weight loss.

The possibility that drinking coffee can promote weight loss is what scientists are excited about in this study. They claim this paper is one of the first to show that doing so can have a direct effect on brown fat functions.

“The potential implications of our results are pretty big, as obesity is a major health concern for society,” says study co-director and University of Nottingham professor Michael Symonds, Ph.D.. “We also have a growing diabetes epidemic and brown fat could potentially be a part of the solution in tackling them.”

brown fat
Brown fat displayed in red. The person X-rayed was cold during the exam.

In the first part of the study, Symonds and his colleagues tested whether caffeine could stimulate brown fat in mouse stem cells. Once they determined that was true, they took the study over to humans and gave nine healthy volunteers a sachet of Nescafé Original, which contains around 65 milligrams of caffeine. Before and 30 minutes after the volunteers drank the coffee, they underwent thermal imaging.

Previous studies had shown that brown fat activity can be observed under cold temperature conditions. Here, the scientists used thermal imaging to observe the patient’s brown fat reserves as they emitted heat. They focused on the neck area, where most brown fat is located, imaging each volunteer right after they had a drink to observe whether their brown fat got hotter.

Drinking coffee could come with some health benefits.

They discovered that drinking coffee did, in fact, stimulate thermogenesis — the process of heat production in organisms — in the areas of the body that store brown fat. Taken together with the stem cell experiment, this result demonstrated that caffeine can promote brown fat functions and “may have the potential to be used therapeutically in adult humans,” the team writes.

Now, the scientists want to double-check whether caffeine — which has previously been associated with weight loss and increased energy expenditures in humans and animals — can consistently activate brown fat in humans.

“Once we have confirmed which component [of coffee] that is responsible for this,” Symonds says, “it could be potentially used as part of a weight management regime or as part of a glucose regulation program to help prevent diabetes.”


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is able to rapidly generate heat and metabolise macronutrients, such as glucose and lipids, through activation of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). Diet can modulate UCP1 function but the capacity of individual nutrients to promote the abundance and activity of UCP1 is not well established. Caffeine consumption has been associated with loss of body weight and increased energy expenditure, but whether it can activate UCP1 is unknown. This study examined the effect of caffeine on BAT thermogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Stem cell-derived adipocytes exposed to caffeine (1 mM) showed increased UCP1 protein abundance and cell metabolism with enhanced oxygen consumption and proton leak. These functional responses were associated with browning-like structural changes in mitochondrial and lipid droplet content. Caffeine also increased peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha expression and mitochondrial biogenesis, together with a number of BAT selective and beige gene markers. In vivo, drinking coffee (but not water) stimulated the temperature of the supraclavicular region, which co-locates to the main region of BAT in adult humans, and is indicative of thermogenesis. Taken together, these results demonstrate that caffeine can promote BAT function at thermoneutrality and may have the potential to be used therapeutically in adult humans.

Get enough iron.

Iron-deficiency may decrease the amount of brown fat in your body.


Eat healthy foods rich in iron such as poultry, seafood, beans, dark leafy vegetables, peas, fortified grains, and dried fruit.


Discuss with your doctor whether you need iron supplements – iron deficiency can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, and treated with over-the-counter supplements.

  • Having enough insulin is important in having enough iron, so be sure to regulate your insulin levels if you’re diabetic.
  • Having proper amounts of thyroid hormone is also important, so manage your hypothyroidism appropriately with your doctor.[19]

In one study, Swedish researchers scanned five subjects after they’d spent two hours at temperatures ranging from 63°F to 66°F. During the scan itself, the subjects cooled their body temperature even further by repeatedly placing one foot in ice water for five minutes at a time, followed by five minutes out of the water.

The investigators found not only that all the subjects had detectable brown fat deposits, but that the added exposure to the cold ice water boosted their brown-fat activity 15-fold. (Check out what a single workout can do for your metabolism.)

Brown fat may have unique diabetes-fighting properties: People with lower glucose levels tend to have more brown fat than those with higher levels, which indicates that it may play a direct role in glucose control.

One group of investigators, for example, recently found that a certain protein in brown fat appears to enhance the metabolism of white fat. When they studied a strain of experimental mice who were lacking this protein, the mice expended less energy, gained weight, and developed diabetes.

In another study at Joslin Diabetes Center (where I am research director), a research team transplanted a small amount of brown fat from one group of mice into the abdomens of another group. The results were astonishing:

After eight weeks, the mice given the transplants were not only leaner than a placebo group but also processed blood glucose better and had reduced insulin resistance. (Learn the 10 sneakiest foods that can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.)

This setpoint is the level of body weight at which the brain automatically begins to slow metabolic activity, making it more difficult to lose additional weight. By revving metabolic activity, brown fat could help combat the metabolic slowdown that occurs when people start dieting.

If someone is able to burn an extra 200 or 300 calories a day through their brown fat, that’s enough to shed a pound of body fat in just a couple of weeks. As Americans get older, we typically add 10 pounds of weight per decade.

Cold temperatures send a signal to your brain, which then acts to stimulate brown fat activity in two ways: by acting on your vascular system directly to increase blood flow to your brown fat stores and by sending nerve impulses to brown fat cells that stimulate an additional boost in cellular activity.

How cold do you have to be? Researchers have found that sitting in a 59°F room for two hours wearing summer clothing will stimulate brown fat to burn an extra 100 to 250 calories, depending on the individual.

A Japanese research team found that half of the subjects under age 38 showed signs of brown fat activation in a 66°F setting. (Results were less impressive for people older than 38.) Lowering your home’s thermostat to the mid-60s or below may be enough to stimulate at least some brown fat activity.

Although there’s no firm evidence that any specific foods or nutrients can activate brown fat, it’s interesting to note that radiologists—who want to decrease brown fat activity when doing scans of cancer patients, because the heat generated by activated brown fat makes it harder to see tumor-related activity—routinely recommend that patients eat a high-fat, low-carb diet before scans, on the grounds that this reduces brown fat activation.

In his book The Diabetes Reset(Workman Publishing, 2015), George King, MD, research director and chief science officer at Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center, translates the latest cutting-edge research about nutrition, metabolism, and more into a diet and lifestyle plan to prevent and treat diabetes.

Not much is yet known about brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, one of two types of fat that humans and other mammals have. Its main function is to turn food into body heat. While scientists are just starting to understand what brown fat does, they have high hopes for studying it:

Most, and perhaps all, adults, have small pockets of brown fat in their bodies, usually located in the sides of the neck, the shoulder and upper arms, and the collarbone area. While white fat makes up the vast majority of the fat in our bodies and is used to store any excess calories we consume, brown fat can actually burns calories to produce heat (under the right conditions).

When fully activated, brown fat can generate 300 times more heat than any other tissue in the body. Just two ounces of brown fat appear capable of burning several hundred calories per day — the equivalent of a 30-minute bout of exercise.

What foods have brown fat? Well, while there are no approved drugs to increase or enhance a body’s brown fat, a number of foods have been shown to help activate it. The foods that activate brown fat below have the added bonus of being healthy and nutrient-rich.

Apple skins are loaded with ursolic acid, a natural compound that helps build and strengthen muscle tissue — and, according to new research — also kick-start the formation of brand-new brown fat.

Taking one milligram of melatonin 30 minutes before lights-out can prompt your brown fat to torch up to 36 percent more calories overnight, reports the Journal of Pineal Research. Melatonin ensures your brown fat stays active even when you’re in dreamland, explains study coauthor Daniel Campos, PhD.

Fitting in 30 minutes of physical activity daily increases your calorie-burn as much as 20 percent in 10 days, doubling your ability to slim down without a struggle, suggests research in the journal Disease Models and Mechanisms.

Simply carving out a little time each day from your hectic schedule to unwind could boost your brown fat’s calorie burn in as little as two weeks, according to a recent Texas Medical Center study. How so?

By tamping down your body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone that makes brown fat sluggish, according to researchers. Tip: A gentle 10-minute do-it-yourself foot rub at bedtime can cut your cortisol levels 25 percent or more.

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