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There are two main types of fat found in mammals: white and brown. White fat has three primary functions: to insulate, to cushion, and to provide energy. Brown fat provides heat/warmth in newborns, because infants can’t shiver to keep warm. Instead, they burn brown fat for warmth; it is literally a heat organ. Hibernating animals also have high levels of brown fat.

a sleeping baby with exposed back and shoulders

A quarter (25%) of an infant’s body mass is brown fat, which is located on the back, primarily along the top half of the spine up towards the shoulders. In adults, how much you have and where it is located varies. Adults have much more white fat than brown fat. Whatever brown fat they have is usually located in the upper chest and the front part of the neck.

Why differentiate between the two? Brown fat, essentially, is awesome. It contains heat-producing cells of mitochondria and – unlike white fat – is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories. Brown fat gets its dark color from its high iron content.

Adults who have larger quantities of brown fat tend to be thinner because of this advantage. Brown fat is more like muscle than like white fat. Experts don’t know exactly how to help adults increase their brown fat stores in the body, but we know that always covering up or spending all of our time indoors in temperature controlled environments decreases over time the amount of brown fat in our bodies.

Parent think they are being solicitous when they sneak into their infant’s bedroom at night to “re-cover” them, but it may be beneficial metabolically for children to sleep in a cooler environment. If you touch their hands, they feel warm. However, constantly piling on blankets and/or clothing is detrimental as the brown fat stores will gradually dissipate.

a couple walking outdoors, dressed in winter coats

Remember–brown fat is activated by cold. Spending time in the cold may enable you to grow new brown fat cells according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health. So keep that thermostat at a lower temperature during the winter. Take long walks out-of-doors. It will help you burn more calories, as well as save money on your utility bills.

Sources:

Healthline (2018). Brown fat: What you should know. https://www.healthline.com/health/brown-fat#1

Rutgers University (2019). Why brown fat is good for people’s health. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190821135238.htm

National Institutes of Health (2019). How brown fat improves metabolism. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism

New England Journal of Medicine (1984). Thermogenesis in Brown Adipose Tissue as an Energy Buffer – Implications for Obesity. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM198412133112407

Written by:  Donna Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

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Have you ever stopped and wondered, how many calories are in your $1.80 guacamole from that popular Mexican style grill? Or in the mountains of ketchup that you have with your burger and fries?

At the height of grilling season, we thought that you might want to know the dietary details in your dips. By utilizing nutrition labels, and popularity, we selected ten separate dipping sauces and examined the caloric intake in one tablespoon. We chose some condiments like name brand mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise because of popularity, while others were for caloric content. After selecting all the sauces and dips, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty and crack the code on these tasty condiments that we all love to dip in to!

When looking at popular burger menus, many take a large dip into your daily intake of sodium and calories. The Thousand Island Dressing included on some sandwiches increases the calories of the melt sandwich to almost 1,000.

condimentsUtilizing nutrition value labels, we compiled two graphs showing calories and sodium. The  graph shows four sauces contained over 45 calories per tablespoon. Thousand Island dressing was the highest with 130, while mayonnaise had 90, Ranch contained 70, and cheese dip or queso had 46. Each dip really packed a caloric punch for your average eater. The impact of these choices could, over time, result in weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends a 2,000-calorie diet, so with the additions of these dips, those 2,000 calories do not go as far. The healthier caloric dips were hummus, BBQ, guacamole, ketchup, salsa, and mustard.

Second, we tracked the sodium in a tablespoon of dip. The graph shows the rising level of sodium in the various dips and sauces examined. Each dip contained sodium, but some packed a larger punch. The worst offender was Thousand Island dressing. It containedInfograph Dip! (1) 290 mg of sodium per tablespoon, which is one fifth of your daily allowance based off The American Heart Association’s 1,500 milligrams or less recommendation. Some other hard hitters were cheese dip, mustard, ketchup, BBQ and ranch, which all had over 100 mg of sodium per tablespoon. Many people assume that fat-free means healthy, however, it can mean higher sodium to increase taste rather than improve health. So, if you are watching sodium consider a very low sodium or sodium free option!

The last component of the dip analysis was fat! The fat in many dips is low or minimal, but four dips made their mark, including the Thousand Island dressing. With nearly 11 grams of fat per tablespoon, the Thousand Island dressing topped the list in fat, as well as sodium and calories! Thousand Island dressing is the least healthy dipping sauce you could select. Salsa, hummus, and guacamole are all low in fat, calories, and sodium making them the best choices. With any dip, from ranch to guacamole, the key is portion control. A tablespoon of dip is not what we are accustomed to, so measure before you serve! Consider squirting out your regular personal serving of ketchup and then measuring it into teaspoons or tablespoons. How much do you use? When thinking about whether to dip or not to dip, consider all components of health – be it sodium, fat, or calories, and then dip in with moderation.

 

Writer: Ryan Kline, Student Intern, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County, kline.375@osu.edu.

Editor: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, harmon.416@osu.edu.

Sources:

American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp#.WyPS-1VKh9M

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sodium-and-Salt_UCM_303290_Article.jsp#.WyPTblVKh9M

National Public Radio: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/03/28/295332576/why-we-got-fatter-during-the-fat-free-food-boom

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