Staying cold – being leaner?!

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Day by day we hear news about various inventions aimed at making people lose excess weight. Some of them work, others don’t. Some are harmful for health but others are related to natural peculiarities of a human organism.

This new weight loss technique is based on the fact that fat can be different. That white fat we are used to see at pictures is the one that makes us look too big. But there is another kind of fat, the right kind – that can make us thinner – brown fat.

The white fat is placed under the skin on tummy and thighs and is the result of eating too much or unhealthy eating. And brown fat is intended to generate heat by boosting your metabolism. So, it works to burn your white fat actually.


Brown fat has been known to experts for a long time but it was considered to be found in babies only, to be precise around their shoulder blades. It works by maintaining their body temperature after birth.

However, according to the recent studies brown fat doesn’t disappear in infancy but persists into adulthood. Moreover, slimmer people tend to have more of that than others. This can explain why slimmer people keep their healthy weight without much effort, while those with a weight problem struggle to lose pounds.

The new approach to the weight loss problem deals with boosting brown fat stores.

We calculate that if you had three ounces of brown fat that was maximally stimulated, it could help you burn an extra 400 to 500 calories a day,’ says Dr Aaron Cypress of the Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston.

Fortunately, many of us proved to have brown fat. The research has revealed that around half of all people have deposits of it in their neck. And what is interesting, women have more brown fat than men.

Brown fat becomes activated and starts to burn fat naturally only when people feel cold. To prove this, Sven Enerback, a researcher at the University of Goteborg in Sweden, chose five volunteers to stay in a cool room for two hours. Then the people were given a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, which lights up any part of the body that is using glucose stores for energy, and not fat.
The volunteers were asked to place a foot intermittently in a bucket of icy water to chill their body. That was done to trigger any brown fat to be revealed by the scan. Each time the body temperature dropped, brown fat deposits showed up.

This wasn’t the only study made to find the effect of the brown fat. In another research, in Holland, a group of 24 men sat in a room cooled to 61F for two hours. The PET scans showed that 23 men had their brown fat activated, while only one and the heaviest man didn’t experience that. When the men were retested after warming up no brown fat was active.

Now the scientists’ goal is to find out whether it is possible to reproduce this effect using drugs.

Another solution is possible either. A sample of a person’s brown fat could be removed from the body, then increased in the laboratory conditions and re-injected later.

There can be an option for the half of the population who don’t have brown fat. Injecting 50g to 100g of brown fat cells into a person could help them to burn off more than 10lb of ‘bad’ fat a year, scientists say.

Nevertheless, if we thought about our ancestors, we would understand they had no technologies like we have now but still brown fat affected them well. What’s the problem with us then?

Comfortable lifestyles, warmer temperatures, abundant food and too little activity have switched off the usefulness of the brown fat in the modern world.

Even 30 years ago, it was more difficult to stay warm than it is now,’ says Professor Cawthorne. ‘Today, our homes, cars, offices, shops and almost everywhere we go are warm.’

If this all true, we can just turn off the central heating and activate the brown fat!

If we were to expose ourselves to cooler temperatures more often, then a lot of people would probably lose weight,’ he says.

Either that or have a daily sauna and plunge into icy water afterwards. Don’t have the heating on in the car and spend more time outdoors, especially in winter. We need to activate brown fat and there are simple ways to do it that may have some benefit.’

Tell me: what do you think about all this? Can it be effective, in your opinion?

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Mona Liz

Mona Liz is a beauty and healthy lifestyle enthusiast with a passion for writing, music, cats, fitness, and food.
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