Turning Bad Fats to Good Fats and Lose Weight

Like anything else in life, some fats are bad, and others are good. Find out what good fats are and how eating them can help you lose weight.

A woman looks seemingly indecisive about a plate of burgers and a plate of fruits on the table in front of her

The term “body fats” gets such a bad rap that many people spend so much time and money trying to get rid of them. What most don’t realize is that are “good fats” and “bad fats.” What’s more, “good fats” may aid in weight loss. Read along as we explore more about them and their role in managing weight and improving health.

Fat Facts

Most people associate fat with weight gain and try with all their might to avoid it their whole lives. In a way, they have a point. There is indeed a kind of fat that may increase weight and cholesterol levels, which can be detrimental to health. This fat is part of the “bad fats.” 

At the same time, humans also need fat to maintain good health. According to National Health Service (NHS), fat can help absorb vitamins and become a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself. Moreover, fat can be turned into energy. This fat belongs to the “good fats.”

Bad and Good Fats and Their Roles in Weight Loss

Scientists have identified two types of fat made by the body: white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). The former, WAT, is also referred to as white fats, and they’re the bad kinds. Meanwhile, BAT, also known as brown fats, are the good kinds. 

White fats function to store the excess calories we get from our food. On the other hand, brown fats contain cells that burn calories and generate heat. They are the ones responsible for keeping you warm in a cold environment.

A woman smiling
Good fats give you energy.

In 2011, researcher Sheng Bi from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) researched the brains of obese and normal rats when he discovered something interesting. He found that the human body could turn calorie-storing white ones into calorie-burning brown ones, and stimulating this process could tackle obesity problems. His finding has continued to lay the basis for healthy weight loss management throughout the years. Furthermore, since the brown ones have the capacity as a calorie burner, converting white to brown also helps improve overall health.

Foods that Change Bad Fats to Good Fats

A partial view of a hand holding chopsticks and a bowl of salmon sashimi
Salmon may help turn bad fats into good fats.

Several ingredients are believed to trigger the white-to-brown fat transformation. A study was conducted in 2019 to investigate this claim, and it concluded that these ingredients are indeed effective. It bears mentioning that the study also pointed out that more trials on some of the ingredients are still needed. 

The ingredients include: 

  1. Capsaicin. Found in: chilli peppers
  2. Resveratrol. Found in: mulberries, red wine, grapes and peanuts
  3. Curcumin. Found in: turmeric
  4. Green tea 
  5. Menthol
  6. Fish-derived Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Found in: fish oil supplements and fatty fish, like salmon

Another study learned that the fat-burning effects of the ingredients could improve when combined with a whey protein supplement. 

Apart from the ones listed above, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) commonly uses red yeast rice. Unlike the other ingredients, though, red yeast rice doesn’t convert white to brown. Instead, a study showed that red yeast rice could prevent weight gain by inhibiting the formation of new white kinds. It also contains statin that can significantly lower levels of total cholesterol. 

Stimulating Good Fats with Acupuncture

Another TCM-approved method to turn white ones into brown ones is acupuncture. Traditionally, TCM uses acupuncture to treat obesity. And today, its effectiveness has been proven in a study. It was revealed that acupuncture could encourage the conversion of white-to-brown fat by inducing UCP1 (a protein that regulates body temperature and weight). Although the study focused on electric acupuncture, the mechanism may also explain how manual acupuncture treats obesity. 

Not all fats are good, but we know now that the bad ones can be good fats eventually. The research and discovery might be new, yet the trick is as old as ever. Acupuncture might help, yet in the end, the way toward weight loss is the same as the road to reach overall health. And that is to eat well.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Chewing The Fat”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. National Health Service. 2018. Fat: the facts  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2016. White Fat, Brown Fat, Bad Fat, Good Fat  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 
  3. Frontiers in Physiology. 2019. Food Ingredients Involved in White-to-Brown Adipose Tissue Conversion and in Calorie Burning  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 
  4. PubMed. 2018. Thermogenic Blend Alone or in Combination with Whey Protein Supplement Stimulates Fat Metabolism and Improves Body Composition in Mice  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Acupuncture promotes white adipose tissue browning by inducing UCP1 expression on DIO mice  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2019. Red Yeast Rice: A Systematic Review of the Traditional Uses, Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Quality Control of an Important Chinese Folk Medicine  [Accessed 17 January 2022] 

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