Cold Temperatures Help Brown Fat (The Good Fat) Grow;
which Stimulates Metabolic Balance and Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
A study known as the ICEMAN study, found that having more brown fat helps to burn off excess calories and control sugar levels. It sounds crazy, but it’s now well-documented:
Subjecting your body to cold temperatures may actually help you drop pounds (which is useful considering the weather we have had recently!).
Studies show that forcing the body to work hard to stay warm may be a secret ticket to weight loss.
Just a few years ago, scientists discovered that, along with the white fat that piles up on our midsections, we also have brown fat, which exists primarily to keep us warm.
Experts have always known babies have brown fat, but they thought it naturally disappeared over time. It turns out adults have it too, and lean people tend to have more than heavier folks.
What is brown fat for?
Unlike white fat, which stores excess calories, brown fat burns calories. It works like a furnace, pulling sugars from the blood and from white fat stores to generate heat. This process is called non-shivering thermogenesis. Basically, it means that when exposed to chilly temperatures, well before you feel uncomfortably cold and start to shiver, your body is already hard at work trying to keep you warm.
Non-shivering thermogenesis burns a surprisingly huge amount of energy. It can account for up to 30 percent of the body’s energy budget, according to research published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. This means that lower temperatures can significantly affect the amount of energy a person expends overall, according to the paper’s authors, a team of researchers from the Netherlands who’ve been studying brown fat for a decade.
Sitting around in our warm homes and offices all day and not forcing our brown fat to generate heat may partially explain why so many people are overweight.
It is also claimed that people get used to colder temperatures after regular exposure, which means their brown fat is being put to work and, as a result, is converting white fat into more brown fat.
In one study it was shown that after spending six hours a day in 59 degrees for 10 days, people shivered less and their brown fat stores increased. But this is the part that has left experts puzzled.
So that’s non-shivering thermogenesis, but once brown fat has done all it can to warm you up and your body starts shivering, how and why do brown fat stores keep increasing?
Another new study has finally answered this question.
“Shivering stimulates the release of irisin, a hormone that can transform ordinary white fat into healthy brown fat. In the laboratory, we found that stimulating human white fat cells with this hormone transforms them into brown fat cells. So, in theory, humans can indeed transform white fat into brown fat.
Exercise also prompts the muscles to release irisin, helping to turn even more white fat to brown. This seems odd since exercise generates heat, not cold, but Lee thinks working out mimics shivering, so it essentially tricks the body into converting white fat to brown. This may be another reason why thinner people, who also tend to exercise more, have more brown fat than heavy men and women. “Brown fat is more abundant in leaner people,”
Ref Dr. Paul Lee, Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.
Lee’s research shows that shivering produces just as much irisin as exercise. In fact, he found that just 10 to 15 minutes of shivering resulted in equivalent rises in irisin as one hour of moderate exercise. That means cold exposure may be just as effective as hitting the treadmill in converting white fat to brown.
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring