The Future of Weight Loss?

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Brown Fat and GLP-1

I’ve written several times about the new “GLP-1” weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro – which are synthetic versions of the GLP hormone naturally made by our gut. 

I’ve also talked in some detail about how we can naturally improve our “metabolism” (including GLP-1 and many other signals that regulate our appetite and how we store or burn fat) – here are the videos – Part 1 and Part 2.

GLP stands for “glucagon-like peptide” – which is a hormone produced in the gut after eating, and which leads to a reduction in appetite, slowing of food transit through the gut (so we can digest and absorb the nutrients), improvement in blood sugar balance, and an increase in fat-burning.

This all sounds amazing – and because users of the drugs tend to lose about 10-20% of their body weight – these drugs are expected to generate over $100 Billion in annual sales within the next 10 years.

Unfortunately, things that sound too good to be true often are – because users have to take the drugs forever (because as soon as you stop, appetite and weight come right back) – and there are growing concerns over a wide range of serious side effects associated with the drugs such as stomach paralysis, pancreatitis and bowel obstruction.

Another approach is to use targeted nutrients to improve the gut’s natural production of GLP-1 while also stimulating the growth of “brown fat” – a combination that harnesses the body’s own internal metabolism to reduce appetite, balance blood sugar, and burn fat (without the side effects or need to take a dangerous drug for a lifetime).

White fat – also known as “white adipose tissue” (WAT) is the type of fat that most of us think about when we think of fat – the jiggly stuff on our bellies, thighs, and butts. This type of fat is metabolically inefficient – it serves as a good storage depot for fat, but it doesn’t use much energy, is hard to burn off, and because it also produces a range of inflammatory compounds (cytokines), it can lead to all kinds of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and depression.

Brown fat – also known as “brown adipose tissue” (BAT) – is found in the neck and shoulders of newborns, and is thought to be one of the reasons that babies and younger kids are like furnaces (they can eat anything and burn it off, and they don’t get cold or shiver like adults). BAT has a much higher density of mitochondria and richer blood supply (which is why it looks brown), and is extremely metabolically active – generating more than 300-times more heat than WAT (“thermogenesis”) by metabolizing sugar and fat for energy – and leading to a wide range of health benefits, including fat loss.

Sounds great right? The problem is that as we age, we lose our fat-burning brown fat – so quickly that by age six, we only have about 5% of the amount we were born with.

The good news is that there are a number of natural ways to “bring back the BAT” and increase the amount of metabolically active brown fat that we have. Some of these strategies help to convert white fat into brown fat, or into an intermediate form known as “beige” fat through a process referred to as “browning.”

My “top 3” ways to increase both BAT metabolism and GLP-1 are… (and here is a video where I talk thru all of these approaches =

Cold therapy: It’s not just the “bro-science” that you see on Instagram – numerous studies concur that cold exposure helps to build brown fat – which you can do in an ice-dunk tank and with cold-water swimming. Consensus (for now) is that you want to shoot for a minimum of 11 minutes a week of water exposure below 60 degrees to produce browning and activate thermogenesis, and allowing the body to warm naturally after (not in saunas, steam rooms, etc.)

Fasting: Humans used to experience long periods of not eating and studies show fasting increases brown fat and thermogenesis – while also improving other metabolic signals such as blood sugar balance, microbiome diversity, and levels of inflammatory cytokines.

Food Ingredients: A wide range of food ingredients/supplements improve thermogenesis and assist in weight loss. Stimulants like caffeine are often used to increase energy levels, but they don’t directly increase thermogenesis the way other Ingredients can – such as like capsaicin, Grains of Paradise, creatine, cinnamon and trehalose because of their ability to “brown” white fat tissue. Other specialized ingredients can improve GLP-1 signaling directly across the Gut-Brain-Axis. For example, the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis BPL-1 targets both energy homeostasis and tryptophan metabolism, with benefits including appetite control (satiety), increased fat metabolism (beta-oxidation), loss of belly fat, and improved psychological mood state (reduced anxiety and depression). The African spice, Glomerata fruit, modulates a number of metabolic signals, including GLP-1, suggesting that it may be “Nature’s Ozempic” in certain ways.

Combining these effects of increasing BAT (glomerata) and amplifying GLP-1 signaling (BPL-1) with other metabolism-enhancing effects has the potential to significantly improve overall metabolism and enhance fat loss without drug-induced side effects. 

For example, reducing leaky gut (carrot pomace and acacia), reducing inflammation (lactobacillus plantarum DR7), reducing cortisol (orange peel), and maintaining lean muscle mass (branched chain amino acids) can all have synergistic effects when used as a coordinated system to improve overall body composition (enhance fat loss and increase muscle gain).

Full disclosure = based on this new science around brown fat, GLP-1, and the numerous “metabolic signals” that underlie our tendency to gain/lose weight (chief of which is the Microbiome-Gut-Brain-Axis), I have written numerous books and formulated products to take advantage of this new science.

If you’re interested in reading further about the research on transforming white fat into brown fat, check out some of these recent articles compiled by the Global Wellness Institute:

UCLA discovers weight loss game-changer: stimulating brown fat to fight obesity–SciTechDaily

NIH-funded research out of UCLA is the first to identify the nerve pathways to brown adipose tissue (BAT) and to provide examples of how manipulating it can change BAT activity. It represents a first step in exploring how to use nerve pathways to create very specific stimuli to activate brown fat, and coax it into producing a constant source of fat-burning heat.

Beige is the new black: Cornell researchers unlock a secret to age-defying weight management–SciTechDaily

Cornell researchers have found that stimulating beige fat cell production may prevent age-related weight gain. Beige fat cells, a subtype of white fat tissue, share thermogenic properties with brown fat tissue, helping reduce harmful blood sugar and fatty acids. As people age, the response to cold temperatures, which stimulates beige fat production, weakens. But by suppressing a specific signaling pathway, beige fat production was increased in older mice, potentially offering a therapeutic approach for humans.

Unlocking the secrets of brown fat–Medscape

Brown fat acts as a “nutrient sink,” consuming glucose and lactate, among other specific metabolites, reveals new research from UMass Chan Medical School. The lead researcher discusses how knowing which exact nutrients brown fat prefers to use to make heat could identify strategies to activate brown fat, and thereby help tackle obesity.

Early morning cold is more effective at activating brown fat for men, though not for women–Medical News Today

According to a new study, early morning exposure to cold is more effective at activating brown fat for men, though, surprisingly, not for women, who begin shivering at lower temperatures than men.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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