How To Increase Brown Fat 2023: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by Brittany Ferri, PhD

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How To Increase Brown Fat
Brown fat is a type of body fat specialized for producing heat. Photo: Nghi Tran

Brown fat is a type of body fat found in mammals that is specialized for producing heat. It differs from white fat, the kind most people are familiar with. White fat stores energy, but brown fat burns calories.

Read more to learn how brown fat works in the body, how it helps control body weight, and how you can harness the health benefits! 

What Can You Do To Increase Brown Fat?

  • Cold Exposure
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Supplements
  • Cryotherapy
  • Medications

6 Methods To Increase Brown Fat

Cold Exposure

One of the most effective ways to improve brown fat production is to expose your body to cold. When the body senses a drop in temperature, it activates brown fat to generate heat and maintain an average body temperature. You can try taking a cold shower or ice bath, sleeping in a cool room, or walking in cold weather to increase brown fat activation.

Research has suggested that a general lack of temperature fluctuations may contribute to low brown fat concentrations. Frequent indoor and outdoor air conditioning and heating equipment use may be why people have less brown fat today.


Exercise To Increase Brown Fat
Fitness increases the protein that can convert white fat to brown fat. Photo: Shutterstock

Exercise can help to increase the activity of brown adipose tissue and potentially aid in weight loss. Regular physical activity, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT), has been shown to help build more brown fat. Better fitness may increase the protein that can convert[1] white fat to brown fat. Generally, a younger, more energetic body has more brown fat than an older, sedentary body. 


Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in calories can help increase brown fat activity naturally. Some studies have suggested that a diet high in protein and healthy fats may be particularly beneficial for activating brown fat. There are some specific foods that are touted to support brown fat, but most of them require such high doses that a supplement is more practical.


Supplements To Increase Brown Fat
Some supplements may have potential benefits for activating brown fat. Photo: Shutterstock

There is limited research on the use of supplements to increase brown fat activity. Some supplements may have potential benefits for activating brown fat and increasing energy expenditure. However, we need more research to determine the effectiveness and safety of these supplements.

In the meantime, this is what we know about the most common supplements:

Curcumin (Turmeric)

Curcumin is found in turmeric and is famous for its anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects. These effects are likely due to its ability to activate the jeans that support brown fat development.

Capsaicin (Spicy Foods)

Capsaicin, found in hot chili peppers, is believed to increase calories burned and enhance fat oxidation–the browning of white fat.


Caffeine is present in various beverages, including coffee, tea, and soda. Some research has suggested[2] that caffeine may increase brown fat activity and oxidation, which is the browning of white fat. However, it’s important to remember that caffeine can also negatively affect health, disrupting sleep and increasing the risk of heart disease if consumed excessively.


Not only is melatonin helpful for regulating our sleeping and waking cycles, but it also appears to cause fat oxidation. Studies[3] in rats showed that melatonin increased the presence and activation of brown fat.

Omega-3s (Fish oil)

Fish oil is rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties. It may also stimulate[4] brown and beige fat development and oxidation.

Resveratrol (Red Wine)

This compound has become popular over the years because of its presence in red grapes. The dose required is too high to be ingested in fresh fruit or wine.

It’s important to remember that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way that medications are. The quality and safety of supplements can vary widely. Some supplements may also interact with medications or have other adverse side effects. Speaking with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen is always a good idea.


Cryotherapy[5] is a therapeutic modality that involves the body being exposed to freezing temperatures to increase internal functions. The temperature inside the cryotherapy chamber or sauna generally is between -200 and -300°F (-129°C and -184°C).

Cryotherapy is used for various health and wellness purposes, including reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, improving athletic performance, and potentially helping lose weight. Some proponents of cryotherapy claim that it can help to activate brown fat cells and increase energy expenditure. However, the evidence to support these claims needs to be more extensive.

Cryotherapy is safe when administered by trained professionals. Athletes and others often use it to recover from exercise or injury. However, it can be associated with certain risks, such as frostbite and skin irritation. Doctors do not recommend it for people with certain medical conditions, such as Raynaud’s disease, asthma, or arthritis.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve specific medications to increase brown fat activity at this time. However, researchers[6] are studying the potential use of certain medicines to activate brown fat cells and decrease the risk of obesity and related metabolic disorders.

For example, in animal studies,[7] a class of medications called beta-3 agonists, which stimulate the beta-3 adrenergic receptor, has been shown to increase brown fat activity and improve metabolic diseases. Some beta-3 agonists, such as mirabegron, are already approved by the FDA for treating other conditions. Still, they are not currently approved to activate brown fat. More research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of human beta-3 agonists and other potential medications.

Any medications used to activate brown fat are most effective when combined with lifestyle changes, such as cold exposure, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.

What Foods Increase Brown Fat?

There is limited research on specific foods that may increase brown fat activity. However, some studies have suggested that certain nutrients and dietary patterns may be associated with the activation of brown fat.


Some studies have suggested that a diet high in protein may improve brown fat’s ability to burn calories and generate heat. There is a clear correlation between eating animal protein and having more brown fat.

Healthy fats

A diet high in healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, may also increase brown fat activity. Researchers found that a high-fat diet rich in monounsaturated fats increased brown fat activity and improved insulin sensitivity in mice.


Some more specific foods contain unique chemicals known to excite brown fat cells. A few of these foods include:

  • Turmeric and other spices,
  • Red wine,
  • Green tea,
  • And spicy peppers.

Because the target compound in some of these foods requires such a high dose to be effective, it could be more practical to consume these foods as supplements.

What Is Brown Fat?

Also known as brown adipose tissue (bat), brown fat is a type of fat that we find in small amounts in the neck, chest, and back areas of the body. Brown fat cells are activated in response to cold and generate heat by burning calories. This process, called thermogenesis, helps to regulate body temperature.

Active brown fat may have several potential health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, decreased risk of obesity, and even increased life expectancy.

Brown fat is one of several different types of fat found in the human body. Other types of fat include:

White fat

White fat, also known as white adipose tissue, is the most common type of body fat. Humans find it in many body areas, including the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks. White fat cells store energy and help to insulate and protect the body. Too much white fat, particularly abdominal fat, is associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.

Beige fat

Beige fat, also known as yellow fat or brite fat, is an intermediate type between white fat and brown fat. It is found in small amounts in the body and has white fat and brown fat characteristics. Beige fat can convert[1] white fat cells to brown. Activating beige fat may have benefits similar to activating brown fat.

Stem cell fat

Stem cell fat, also known as mesenchymal stem cell fat,[8] is a type of fat that contains stem cells. It can develop into different kinds of cells in the body. Stem cell fat is found in small amounts in the body. It has the ability to regenerate and repair damaged tissue.

What Does Brown Fat Do?

Brown fat is a fat specialized for heat production. It’s comprised of small, densely packed cells containing many fat molecules and mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the cell’s powerhouses and are responsible for producing energy from the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe. A cell with extra mitochondria will burn more calories. Brown fat cells contain many mitochondria, so they can burn more calories and generate heat.

Brown adipose tissue is more prevalent in infants than adults because it helps to regulate body temperature in newborns, who cannot shiver in response to cold like adults.

Brown Fat Vs. White Fat: What’s The Difference?

White fat, or white adipose tissue, is the type of fat that you already know. It is found throughout the body and is essential for insulation, cushioning, and energy storage. It comprises large, spherical cells containing a single, large fat droplet.

White fat accumulation happens when your energy expenditure is lower than your calorie consumption. When you burn less than you eat, white fat increases.

Visceral fat is white adipose tissue that accumulates in the abdomen, putting pressure on your organs. Because of its location, visceral fat is hazardous and leads to many of the negative consequences associated with obesity. White fat cells can also affect hormone production and hunger levels, which can cause a vicious positive feedback loop in individuals who are overweight.

Health Benefits Of Brown Fat

There are several potential health benefits of activating brown fat. Some of the most promising[9] potential uses include the following:

Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Activating brown fat may help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is the ability of cells to respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels by promoting glucose uptake[10] into cells. Insulin resistance, which occurs when cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, is a significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Brown fat may help to improve blood sugar stability and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Promotes Healthy Weight

Activating brown fat may help to reduce the risk of obesity and related metabolic disorders. Brown fat can burn calories through a process called thermogenesis. Increasing more detectable brown fat activity may help to increase energy expenditure and aid in weight loss.

Once you understand brown fat’s ability to burn calories, it’s apparent how it can benefit those suffering from obesity. But there’s more to it than that. Obesity is usually rooted in inflammation, and brown fat is less associated with inflammation than white fat is.

Increased life expectancy

Some studies have suggested that activated brown fat may increase lifespan. Activating brown fat through exposure to cold temperatures or other interventions increased lifespan in mice. However, scientists need more research to determine if this finding applies to humans.

It’s important to note that, while these potential benefits are promising, more research is needed to understand the role of brown fat in the body entirely. In the coming years, we will be able to harness brown fat as a therapeutic target for treating obesity and related conditions.


Brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, is a type of body fat found in small amounts in the body’s neck, chest, and back areas. Brown fat is activated in response to cold temperatures and generates heat by burning calories. This process, called thermogenesis, helps manage body temperature. 

Activating brown fat may have several potential health benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, decreased risk of obesity and related metabolic disorders, and potentially increased life expectancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods can increase brown fat?

Certain foods contain nutrients that may turn white fatty acids into brown, such as green tea, red wine, hot peppers, turmeric, and other spices. The research on this isn’t solid. Some think the doses required for some of these foods are so high as to be impractical without consuming supplements.

How can I increase brown fat naturally?

Exposure to cold temperatures, regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep may all be ways to activate brown fat naturally. Cold showers, sleeping in a cool room, and walking in cold weather can activate brown fat. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and a diet high in protein and healthy fats may also be beneficial.

+ 10 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Wang, W. and Seale, P. (2016). Control of brown and beige fat development. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, [online] 17(11), pp.691–702. doi:
  2. Hursel, R., Wolfgang Viechtbauer, Dulloo, A.G., Tremblay, A., Tappy, L., Rumpler, W.V. and Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S. (2011). The effects of catechin rich teas and caffeine on energy expenditure and fat oxidation: a meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, [online] 12(7), pp.e573–e581. doi:
  3. Gumersindo Fernández Vázquez, Reiter, R.J. and Agil, A. (2018). Melatonin increases brown adipose tissue mass and function in Zücker diabetic fatty rats: implications for obesity control. Journal of Pineal Research, [online] 64(4), pp.e12472–e12472. doi:
  4. Lund, J.W., Larsen, L.H. and Lauritzen, L. (2018). Fish oil as a potential activator of brown and beige fat thermogenesis. Adipocyte, [online] pp.1–8. doi:
  5. Bleakley, C., François Bieuzen, Davison, G.W. and Costello, J. (2014). Whole-body cryotherapy: empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Open access journal of sports medicine, [online] pp.25–25. doi:
  6. Brandão, B.B., Ankita Poojari and Atefeh Rabiee (2021). Thermogenic Fat: Development, Physiological Function, and Therapeutic Potential. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 22(11), pp.5906–5906. doi:
  7. Brandão, B.B., Ankita Poojari and Atefeh Rabiee (2021). Thermogenic Fat: Development, Physiological Function, and Therapeutic Potential. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 22(11), pp.5906–5906. doi:
  8. Brown, A.C. (2019). Brown adipocytes from induced pluripotent stem cells—how far have we come? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, [online] 1463(1), pp.9–22. doi:
  9. Anny Mulya and Kirwan, J.P. (2016). Brown and Beige Adipose Tissue. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, [online] 45(3), pp.605–621. doi:
  10. Wang, W. and Seale, P. (2016). Control of brown and beige fat development. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, [online] 17(11), pp.691–702. doi:


Nia is a STEM educator, certified personal trainer, fitness instructor, and certified nurses' aid. She received her Bachelor's in Creative Writing and Music Theory from The College of Idaho in 2010 at the age of 18. She spent the next 5 years studying Biochemistry and STEM education at Boise State University. Now a mother of 2, she resides in central Idaho and owns a writing agency specializing in content and copywriting for Health, Science, & Education.


Brittany is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has written over 350 pieces of patient-facing content, published 4 books, created over 30 continuing education courses, and medically reviewed countless pieces of content for accuracy. Her media appearances include being quoted as a health expert in WebMD, Healthline, NBCNews, and Forbes.

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