If you want to lose weight, you might consider getting comfortable with the cold.
A new study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports has found evidence that exposure to cold temperatures could transform the type of fat we form in our bodies, and even potentially help us burn off excess body fat.
For the research, scientists differentiated stem cells (which can become other types of cells) to become fat cells at both normal body temperature and at a slightly cooler temperature. They found that at the lower temperatures, the cells formed a kind of fat known as brown fat, which causes bodies to burn more calories to keep warm and burn off excess body fat.
People always have some layer of fat in their bodies. Adults have mostly white fat, which serves as a sort of solid, inert way of storing energy. White fat is what makes up dangerous excess body fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, is used to rev up the metabolism to keep us warm — it’s how babies regulate their body temperature, since they don’t have the muscles to shiver themselves warm yet.
Researchers once thought we lost this type of fat as we left childhood, but they now know there’s at least a small amount left in adults. That realization gave scientists hope that they could figure out how to activate and even stimulate the growth of this brown fat in our bodies, which could help people burn off extra calories — including the white fat many of us have stored around our bellies.
This new study brings us a step closer to that.
Harnessing the power of brown fat
“It has been known for quite some time that exposure to lower temperatures can promote the formation of brown fat, but the mechanism of this has not yet been discovered,” study author Virginie Sottile, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK, said in a statement. “The trigger was believed to be the body’s nervous system and changes in the way we eat when we are cold. However, our study has shown that even by making fairly modest changes in temperature, we can activate our stem cells to form brown fat at a cellular level.”
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SOURCE: Business Insider, Kevin Loria