Cold Weather TherapyDecember 19, 2017 Written by JP [Font too small?]
“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.” So goes the famous, opening line of the holiday classic, “Let It Snow”. If you’re reading this somewhere in the northern hemisphere, you may well relate to the ‘frightful’ part of the tune. But, it is the ‘fire’ lyric I’d like to focus on today.
The second gift I’m giving you this year is a BAT. Probably not the BAT you’re thinking of though. BAT is short for brown adipose tissue or “brown fat”. When most people focus on body fat, they usually think of it as a measure of appearance or weight. But, in reality, fat is a vital organ which plays an essential role in buffering us from the elements, producing beneficial hormones such as adiponectin and providing stored energy when food isn’t available.
Not all fat is created equally. Brown fat differs from subcutaneous, visceral and white fat because of its unique ability to generate heat or “burn calories”. In this respect, BAT acts more like muscle than fat. Unsurprisingly, researchers note that it is present in higher quantities in children and lean adults. But, there are a few things we can do at any age or weight to enhance BAT activation. And, there’s more reason to do so than ever before.
One of the simplest ways to increase BAT activity is to spend more time in the cold. This doesn’t mean you have to book a trip to Alaska or shiver throughout the day and night. All it takes is purposefully exposing yourself to a cooler environment some of the time. For instance, a recent study found that shifting time spent from a warm environment (about 72° Fahrenheit) to a moderately cool environment (about 65° Fahrenheit) improved glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity by 20%. Likewise, the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline increased in the study participants. Perhaps that’s why a recent review in the journal, Diabetologia, mentioned “cold exposure” as having potentially therapeutic value for type 2 diabetics.
Better blood sugar management is one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. But, around this time of year, I fully realize that diet and weight often overshadow concerns about insulin sensitivity. With that in mind, I’ll briefly review how BAT activation may help keep the pounds off. The most obvious way that “feeling the chill” benefits your waistline is by stimulating calorie burning or thermogenesis. In short, you’ll burn more calories in the cold. Also, the previously noted improvements in glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity tend to minimize food cravings caused by erratic blood sugar while reducing insulin production. This is meaningful because excess insulin encourages fat storage. Finally, a recent study in the European Journal of Endocrinology reports that “cold-induced BAT activation was associated with lower serum ghrelin”. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach that increases appetite.
Bonus Gift! This one goes out to those who simply hate being out in the cold. This isn’t a substitute for periodic cold exposure, but rather a complement to it. It turns out that a hot cup of green tea may activate brown fat as well. What’s more, green tea appears to work synergistically with the cold to further increase energy expenditure. Don’t like green tea? Try adding ginger (freshly grated or in a tea bag form) while brewing green tea. The ginger taste will over power much of the grassy tea notes while supporting greater satiety and thermogenesis.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Cold-Induced Brown Adipose Tissue Activity Alters Plasma Fatty Acids … (link)
Study 2 – Combating Type 2 Diabetes by Turning Up the Heat … (link)
Study 3 – Short-term Cold Acclimation Recruits Brown Adipose Tissue … (link)
Study 4 – Thermogenic Responses to Overfeeding and Cold Are Differentially … (link)
Study 5 – Increased Brown Adipose Tissue Oxidative Capacity in Cold-Acclimated … (link)
Study 6 – Brown Fat Activation Mediates Cold-Induced Thermogenesis in Adult … (link)
Study 7 – Brown Adipose Tissue is Associated with Systemic Concentrations of … (link)
Study 8 – Dietary Factors Promoting Brown and Beige Fat Development … (link)
Study 9 – Tea Catechin and Caffeine Activate Brown Adipose Tissue and Increase … (link)
Study 10 – Activation and Recruitment of Brown Adipose Tissue by Cold Exposure ... (link)
Study 11 – Systematic Review of the Anti-Obesity an Weight Lowering Effect of (link)
Study 12 – Ginger Consumption Enhances the Thermic Effect of Food and … (link)
Study 13 – Metabolic Effects of Spices, Teas, and Caffeine … (link)
The Metabolic Effects of Cold Exposure and Exercise
Source: Diabetologia. 2016; 59(11): 2269–2279. (link)
Tags: Appetite, Body Fat, Insulin
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diabetes, Diet and Weight Loss