Science Says Beige Fat Is Actually Crucial For Keeping Your Brain Healthy & Sharp

May 18, 2023

Being fat is normal

Recently, singer, icon, and vegan goddess Lizzo drew attention for declaring in a TikTok that she “IS the beauty standard.” While we agree Lizzo is flame emoji incarnate—have you seen her Vogue cover?—the fact that she had to say it goes to show that some people still don’t get it. In fact, Lizzo has been trying to normalize being fat for years. In that Vogue interview, she called out the hijacking of the body positivity movement by a certain, mainly white, subset of the population.

“What I don’t like is how the people that this term was created for are not benefiting from it. Girls with back fat, girls with bellies that hang, girls with thighs that aren’t separated, that overlap. Girls with stretch marks. You know, girls who are in the 18-plus club. They need to be benefiting from…the mainstream effect of body positivity now,” she said. For her, body positivity has lost much of its original meaning. She stated: “I would like to be body normative. I want to normalize my body. And not just be like, ‘Ooh, look at this cool movement. Being fat is body positive.’ No, being fat is normal.”

A woman wearing a light blue floral dress standing in the sun and smiling.

The fact is that over 40% of American adults is obese, with more who are overweight. So being fat is normal, and to say otherwise would be criticizing half the population as “abnormal.”

Fat plays a crucial role in brain health

Even as beauty standards have become more inclusive, people use health concerns as a way to hide their fat-shaming bias. But studies are revealing a fascinating and crucial role that fat plays in keeping you healthy.

According to a study published in Nature, beige fat cells protect your brain from decline by reducing inflammation. Beige fat cells are usually mixed in with white fat cells in the subcutaneous (under skin) zones in hips, thighs, and butt. They contain mitochondria, which metabolize fat and sugar to produce heat. In fact, beige fat cells are so important to the brain that transplanting them restores cognitive function.

Subcutaneous fat also cushions bones and muscle, and reduces the chance of developing dangerous visceral (white fat around the internal organs) fat. People who are predisposed to gain extra fat in hips and thighs even have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Visceral fat, on the other hand, has been linked to reduced cognitive function and even reduced brain mass. The good news is that there is a fluid relationship between white and beige / brown fat. Exercise and cold exposure are two ways you can beige your white fat. Research suggests that just 2 hours of exposure to 66°F each day can promote the browning of white fat.

The discoveries about fat’s role in our health make us see our bodies in a newly holistic light. It’s not just that “you can be beautiful at any size.” Health can come in many different shapes and sizes. Instead of being annoyed at rounder arms and legs, we can have a more objective view that our bodies are trying to do more than just look good in an outfit.

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Photo: Brayan Espitia via Unsplash


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