Cold for Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention
The energy burning furnace that keeps our body warm when exposed to cold, brown fat or brown adipose tissue, has been increasingly studied for its role in metabolism for weight loss and diabetes prevention. Mouse studies show active brown fat has a role in preventing obesity. That knowledge has increased investigation of brown fat’s role in weight loss and diabetes prevention in people.After the discovery by science around 2009 that brown fat is present in adults, researchers were curious to learn why brown adipose tissue was active in some people but not in others. The adults with brown fat were generally leaner and had healthier blood sugar levels.
Not only did adults have brown fat that could be stimulated by exposure to mild cold conditions, other studies revealed another “healthy fat” – beige fat. It was discovered that cold exposure could actually change our bad belly fat, white adipose tissue, into a beige adipose tissue. Beige fat also burns off excess energy and seems to have a role in weight loss and diabetes prevention.1)
Paul Lee, a research scientist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, leads a Brown Fat Physiology Group. His 2014 “ICEMAN study” proved that there is a link between ambient temperatures and the gain or loss of brown fat in adults. it only required a mild cold of 19 degrees celsius in a room overnight for a few months to grown brown fat, burn more calories which can lead to weight loss, and stimulated insulin sensitivity requiring less insulin after eating to bring blood sugar levels down. An easy inference to draw is that the indoor controlled environments people have been living in has had a role in the increase seen in obesity and diabetes.
In the Washington Post interview, Dr. Lee said that there is no current evidence that shivering is a method to achieve weight loss and diabetes prevention. Brown fat research has been focused on the mild cold exposure that triggers brown adipose tissue’s use of glucose to produce internal body heat. Shivering is a different metabolic response.
Dr. Aaron Cypess, National Institute of Health researcher, has conducted studies that show clear evidence that stimulating the growth and activity of brown fat can have a beneficial role in preventing weight gain, obesity and diabetes. He does not recommend shivering as a way of losing weight however. Shivering is a response to colder temperatures, below 19 degrees celsius, that is both extremely uncomfortable and a stress on the body that could cause damage. Because of those problems, the body is designed to turn on the brown fat furnace and turn white fat to beige fat in mild cold environments.
The bottom line remains the same. No cool fat burner promising weight loss from shivering or mild cold brown fat cooling vest alone is going to be a magic solution for weight loss and diabetes prevention. Controlling food intake and exercising will remain the fundamental factors for better health. However, the modern human controlled temperature environment may be a key factor in the massive growth of obesity and diabetes, so new ways to restore a healthy mild cold exposure should be very beneficial.
1) There are several types of body fat according to a recent Women’s Health Magazine article about body fat types and weight loss.