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Brown Fat: Your Body’s Superhero for Staying Healthy!

By Dr. Chris Pepitone

Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue (BAT), is a specialized type of fat that sets itself apart from white fat (associated with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome). While white fat primarily stores excess calories, brown fat is a metabolic powerhouse that burns calories to generate heat, a process known as thermogenesis. It also produces a multitude of hormones that increase your metabolic rate (speeds up calorie burning), improves insulin sensitivity (helps with blood sugar dysregulation), and can even help with a deficient thyroid.

Brown fat makes the following hormones:

1. Produces Thyroid Hormone (T3): for those suffering from Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism then having more brown fat can help compensate for the inability of the thyroid to make enough T3.

2. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF): promotes the survival and proliferation of neurons, including the peripheral sensory and sympathetic neurons.

3. Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A (VEGFA): protects against diet-induced obesity and metabolic disorders.

4. Neuregulin 4 (Nrg4): Deficiency may be a common feature of obesity. Nrg4 deficiency exacerbated diet-induced obesity and metabolic disorders whereas increase in Nrg4 in adipose tissues had the opposite effects by inhibiting fat generation (lipogenesis).

5. Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21): can contribute to correcting obesity and improving metabolic homeostasis.

6. Bone Morphogenic Proteins (BMPs): Regulates bone and cartilage formation and repair. BMP7 stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis to promote the browning of white fat.

Ice baths have so many benefits that are too numerous to list in a single article. A couple of important questions tend to pop up regarding how to obtain these benefits. Does temperature matter? How long do I have to spend in there?

Does temperature matter in the cold plunge? Short answer is yes. You would have to spend 1 hour in 50oF or only 2 minutes in 40oF to receive the same hormonal benefit. The colder the water the greater the reaction with less time required in the cold.

How long do I have to spend in an ice bath? There is not a ton of consistent data on this as the temperatures vary depending upon the study. A general consensus of 11-12 minutes per week seems to be the optimal time to reap the greatest benefits. This can be broken up in sessions of 2-6 minute durations.

As with most things in life the truth is not always so simple. There are nuances that must be taken into consideration and variations in the individuals physiology. If you want to learn more about how cold exposure can help call us today at 732.747.0083 and schedule a consultation. Or visit us at



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