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Vitamin A Could Unlock Brown-Fat Burning

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Fat burning can be a top priority for many people, but an especially important type of fat burning is only activated during certain conditions.  Brown fat tissue is different than the typical fat we think of which stores energy.  Instead, when brown fat is burned off, it ignites metabolic changes and helps keep us warm (while also burning calories).  Coffee and hot peppers can stimulate brown fat burning, as can a vitamin you’re likely already getting in your diet.

                Through research conducted at the Medical University of Vienna, a unique role of Vitamin A in brown fat burning has been discovered.  Vitamin A, otherwise known as retinol, is increased in the body when exposed to cold in humans and mice.  Under the influence of cold temperatures, vitamin A which is normally stored in the liver begins to mobilize and travels to the fat tissue.  Once in the fat tissue, it converts regular white fat into brown fat, a process known as “browning”.

               Having the option to convert regular white fat into brown fat would be helpful in reducing overall fat deposits, but don’t rush out for Vitamin A supplements just yet.  This mechanism has just been discovered, and the scientists hesitate to recommend supplements because the process is so specific.  They aren’t sure if taking in any extra vitamin A will help because the body has a complex timeline in which it delivers the vitamin A from the liver.  However, incorporating more food-sources of vitamin A can certainly give you all of the other benefits of vitamin A and carotenoid-rich vegetables so you aren’t lacking when your body needs to turn on the browning switch.

               Vitamin A is either consumed on its own or in the form of provitamin A, also known as carotenoids.  The carotenoids, as the name implies, are the bright oranges, yellows, and red colors found in fruits and vegetables (like carrots).  Broccoli and squash also contain provitamin A. Your body can use the carotenoids to make Vitamin A, but Vitamin A on its own will only be found in fortified cereals, fish, liver, and dairy products.


Anna Fenzl, Oana Cristina Kulterer, Katrin Spirk, et. al. Intact vitamin A transport is critical for cold-mediated adipose tissue browning and thermogenesisMolecular Metabolism, 2020; 101088 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2020.101088


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