Brown Fat Diabetes Cooling Study of Cold Acclimation Shows Profound Increase in Insulin Sensitivity in Only 10 Days
Before and After Glucose Uptake Results Cold Acclimation of BAT. Copyright Nature
A recent study of brown fat diabetes evaluating the promise of cooling as a therapy for people with type 2 diabetes published on nature.com added to mounting evidence of major benefits. People with type 2 diabetes participating in the study of brown fat cooling showed better improvement in their insulin sensitivity than seen in the currently most recommended therapy of long term exercise for diabetes. “Insulin sensitivity was markedly increased after cold acclimation as indicated by on average a 43% increase in the glucose infusion rate….”
After just 10 days of cold acclimation people in the study with type 2 diabetes showed very significant positive impact on both whole-body and skeletal muscle sensitivity to insulin. As a result glucose uptake is markedly improved leading the researchers to conclude that brown fat cooling is a valid new way to improve the metabolic health of people with diabetes.
The method of cold acclimation to study the area of brown fat diabetes cooling therapy was remarkably simple and short. Eight overweight males were included in the study which originally was intended to include eleven to obtain valid results. During the study of the initial eight subjects the results on insulin sensitivity from cold acclimation of brown adipose tissue (brown fat) were so significant that the study was shortened with the approval of an external research monitoring board. During the ten day cold acclimation test, the study subjects were in a room kept at 14-15 degrees centigrade with exposure times increased starting with 2 hours on day 1, 4 hours on day 2, and 6 hours on days 3-10. Patients in the study used their normal medications for type 2 diabetes, ate standardized meals at the same time and were told not to exercise.
Exciting opportunities for brown fat diabetes cooling therapies are opened up by this key study, with a cooling vest for brown fat weight loss and diabetes treatment being one that is convenient. The combination of both brown fat cooling and exercise for diabetes treatment is another exciting concept: one that Dr. George King, head of research at Joslin Diabetes Center is already exploring at the Harvard Medical School institution’s headquarters where a “Joslin Coolout” workout in a cool room has started.
Brown Fat Diabetes Research Published
Researchers find that brown fat is an anti-diabetes organ
Diabetes may be treated by stimulating brown fat
Not all fat is created equal, and that is good news for millions fighting diabetes. In a study of the metabolic role of brown fat diabetes researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston showed that people with more brown fat are able to maintain control over their blood sugar and increase their resting metabolic rate. Brown Adipose Tissue Improves Glucose Metabolism and Whole Body Insulin Sensitivity in Humans. Scientific Session of the American Diabetes Association, San Francisco, June 2014.
How did they do it? The study, led by Dr. Labros Sidossis, included adult male subjects who were divided into two groups: one group had brown fat present at the start of the study and the other did not. All subjects wore a cooling vest for several hours at a mild cold temperature that would stimulate brown fat and not cause a shivering response.
The results showed that active brown fat plays an important role in metabolism of glucose. People in the study who had stores of brown fat that were activated by the cooling vest were better able to metabolize glucose and had increased insulin sensitivity. The abstract of the study states:
“These results demonstrate a physiologically significant role of BAT in whole-body energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis, and insulin sensitivity in humans and support the notion that BAT may function as an anti-diabetic tissue in humans.”
Researchers found that mild cold exposure increased the base metabolic rate of the brown fat positive group by 15%. Very significant reductions in blood glucose were seen in the individuals with cold stimulated brown fat.
While some studies have lowered thermostats in a room to create mild cold conditions, this is the third study to use a liquid circulating cooling vest or garment connected by tubing to a chiller. While effective, using a brown fat cooling vest that keeps you connected to a chiller by tubes requires the person to remain still and is not practical for real world use. The water cooled vests are very expensive devices used by surgeons to remain cool during long procedures. Cooling is acknowledged as the best know way to stimulate brown fat, but researchers are mainly focused on finding a drug as a treatment for obesity and diabetes. Cooling vests with phase change cooling packs to activate brown adipose tissue may provide the best solution.
How does Brown Fat Fight Obesity and Diabetes?
Researcher Dr. Paul Lee Explains how to “Fight Fat with Fat”
If you have been hearing about brown fat (brown adipose tissue) and find the science hard to understand, Dr. Paul Lee of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, has provided this excellent video presentation covering the basics.
Dr. Lee recently presented the ground breaking ICEMAN study on how keeping cool can stimulate brown fat. In his research, subjects were subjected to variations in room temperature in carefully controlled conditions over a period of months. The amount and activity of their brown fat was shown to directly influence the growth or loss of brown fat. In a cool environment, the brown adipose tissue increased and in a warm environment people lost brown adipose tissue. In fact, just one month of sleeping in mild cold temperatures increase brown fat by 30-40%. The plasticity of brown fat with variations in ambient temperature provided more evidence that human health problems of diabetes and obesity may have increased as modern humans have lived in controlled indoor environments.
“The improvement in insulin sensitivity accompanying brown fat gain may open new avenues in the treatment of impaired glucose metabolism in the future. On the other hand, the reduction in mild cold exposure from widespread central heating in contemporary society may impair brown fat function and may be a hidden contributor to obesity and metabolic disorders,” Lee said.
“Studies have been performed in the UK and US measuring bedroom, dining room and lounge room temperatures in people’s homes over the last few decades, and the temperature has climbed from about 19 to 22, a range sufficient to quieten down brown fat.”
“So in addition to unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, it is tempting to speculate that the subtle shift in temperature exposure could be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity.”
The challenge that Dr. Lee sees is that turning down thermostats may not be practical or comfortable. Additional studies will search for the mechanism that triggers brown fat and a drug that can be used to stimulate it.
View the video for his excellent overview of brown fat and why it is important in the battle on obesity and diabetes.
Lose fat with fat
Brown Fat Cold Exposure : ICEMAN Study Presented
Room temperatures proven to influence brown fat growth or loss
Brown Fat Activated by Cold
Today an exciting new study of the effect of room temperatures on brown fat cold exposure was presented in Chicago at a meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology.
“Our research points to a simple and practical brown fat activating and growing strategy in humans through temperature exposure modulation. We show that long-term minimal manipulation of overnight ambient temperature — well within the range found in climate-controlled buildings — was able to modulate brown fat activity in humans. Mild cold exposure stimulated brown fat activity while mild warm exposure suppressed it. Brown fat increase was accompanied by improvement in insulin sensitivity and energy burning rate after food,” said Paul Lee, MD, PhD, former research fellow at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Brown fat cold exposure with even small changes in room temperatures over the long term will have a beneficial health affect. Temperature changes directly effect the amount of brown fat and the activity of brown fat, which in turn has an important benefit on energy expenditure and metabolism in people. The study concluded that brown fat could be harnessed by simple ambient temperature adjustments making cooling an effective tool to combat obesity, diabetes and related disorders.
The flaw with this and other papers about brown fat cold exposure is that they ignore the practical limitations of people adjusting their thermostats down to sixty degrees. In northern climates during the cold months, this may be possible. But turning your air conditioning down in a home or business to the sixties is unaffordable and not very “green.” The solution may be in portable cooling. Brown fat activation with a cooling vest for weight loss and treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases will be a much more practical method, and has already been shown to work.