Cooling vests could be easiest way to fight flab
Cooling the body down, rather than building up a sweat, could be an effective way of losing weight, a new research has revealed.
Scientists say that brown fat – a ‘good’ fat that burns calories – is activated by the cold.
It is found naturally in humans and consumes calories to generate heat. It was known that it could be activated by exposure to cold, in a process called non-shivering thermogenesis.
How to activate brown fat on cue has puzzled scientists – until a team from the Joslin Diabetes Centre tested to see if the drug ephedrine could be used as a trigger.
And while they conclude that it cannot, their work has opened the door to more research into how cold, or agents, which mimic the effects of cold, could be used to fight obesity.
“We propose that agents that work similarly to cold in activating brown fat specifically can provide promising approaches to fighting obesity while minimizing other side effects,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr Aaron Cypess as saying.
“At the same time, we now know that ephedrine is not the way to do it,” he said.
For the study, the team gave participants injections of either ephedrine or a control saline solution and asked them to wear ‘cooling vests’ with water at 57 F pumped into them. Their fat activity was then measured.
Researchers found that brown fat was the same following both the ephedrine and saline injections.
However, after the subjects wore the cooling vests for two hours, their brown fat activity was stimulated significantly.
Both interventions – ephedrine injections and the wearing of the cooling vests – did result in the same number of calories being burned, Dr. Cypess noted.
“But we found that ephedrine was not using brown fat to do it. This is the first time it has been found that ephedrine does not turn on brown fat,” he said.
Both methods had effects of the sympathetic nervous system – which activates the fight or flight response – such as increased blood pressure, but only the cold activated brown fat.
Dr Cypess said harnessing the cold effects could help reduce calories without the side effects associated with ephedrine.
“Mild cold exposure stimulates (brown fat) energy expenditure with fewer other systemic effects, suggesting that cold activates specific sympathetic pathways,” he said.
“Agents that mimic cold activation of (brown fat) could provide a promising approach to treating obesity while minimizing systemic effects,” he said.
One method may be simply to design cooling vests that people can wear to help them lose weight.
Dr. Cypess revealed that a future study would have subjects wear the cooling vests for several weeks to see what happens.
“Will they get the same health benefits they would have seen with several weeks of exercise? That’s the billion dollar question,” he added.
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