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Difference Between White and Brown Fat Cells

The human body is a complicated system with many different tissue and cell types, none of which can function without energy. Even hard, mineralized bone tissues needs a continuous supply of energy to stay alive and healthy. Adipose tissue (fat depot), which is composed of many individual adipocytes, stores energy in fat form. The two types of adipose tissue are white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). Adipocytes, which are also called lipocytes or fat cells, comprise white and brown fat cells.


Brown adipocyte & White adipocyte

White Fat Cells (unilocular)

Each individual cell contains a large semi-liquid droplet of lipid, mostly triglycerides, that can be broken down as needed into fatty acids and glycerol. Glucose, which is the primary fuel for brain cells, is made through the conversion of glycerol. The brain, the most important organ in the human body, consumes a disproportionately large share of the body’s demand for energy. A steady supply of glucose is critical to brain function, and white fat ensures that glucose is always available. The white fat cells are distributed everywhere in the human body, but the largest concentrations typically appear in and around the abdomen, the hips and the buttocks.

A common misconception is that white fat cells are nearly inert lumps that show little biological activity. In reality, these cells do rather more than merely store fat. They cushion internal organs and insulate the entire body against cold environments even as the cells are slowly drained of fat to be burned for warmth. Insulin and glucagon receptors on the surfaces of white fat cells help with regulating energy consumption and storage.

Brown Fat Cells (multilocular)

Brown fat cells are less in adults and exist primarily to create heat, which burns calories. These cells contain multiple small lipid droplets, unlike white fat cells. Brown fat cells present in newborns contain many more mitochondria, which are the symbionts that inhabit all living human cells. The New England Journal of Medicine has come up with new findings on brown fat and white fat. Brown fat deposits, which typically cluster near the collarbone and in the neck, have been recently linked to healthy body weight. The following characteristics of brown fat have been observed:

  • Lean individuals tend to have significantly more brown fat than obese individuals.
  • Women tend to have more brown fat than men.
  • Brown fat accounts for a great deal of heat production, especially in cooler climes.

The brown fat cells play only a little role and too much of it can affect one’s health.

More Findings

Researchers are exploring the potential for increasing the presence of brown fat deposits in adults or for encouraging the body to otherwise resist accumulating excessive white fat deposits. Another interesting point is that simple exposure to a consistently cool environment seems likely to encourage the burning of stored fat and shed pounds, compared to warm surroundings.

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