Carbohydrates Increase Heat Production (Thermogenesis)

Pasta Primavera by Forks Over Knives

Did you ever eat a big bowl of pasta or rice before you went to bed and found yourself throwing off the covers later? That heat production is called thermogenesis and a new study adds to the body of evidence that carbs cause it:

Food Activates Brown Fat: How Brown Adipose Tissue Reacts To A Carbohydrate-Rich Meal, Science Daily, 29 August 2018

Brown fat burns fat for energy.
White fat stores energy as fat.

When we activate our brown fat, we burn more calories. That helps us maintain a healthy weight and also keeps us warm, because heat is given off as a byproduct of fat-burning.

It was known that exposure to cold temperatures activates brown fat:

“Studies showed that participants who spent hours in the cold chamber daily not only experienced an increase in the heat output of brown fat in the cold as they got used to the lower temperatures, but also an improvement in the control of blood sugar via insulin.”

This study found that eating a high-carbohydrate meal also activates brown fat:

“For the first time, it could be demonstrated that heat generation in brown adipose tissue could be activated by a [high-carbohydrate] test meal just as it would be by exposure to cold,” said [lead author] Klingenspor, summarizing the findings.

There’s also this:

“We now know that the activation of brown adipose tissue could be linked to a feeling of being full.”

So, a high-carb meal (compared to a low-carb meal) can result in:

  • More calories burned
  • More heat generated
  • Improvement in blood glucose
  • Improved satiety

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