Brown fat is a beneficial type of fat that burns energy and glucose to make heat, it protects against diabetes and obesity. Now, new research suggests long-term exposure to cold environments can stimulate growth of this "good" fat in humans, potentially benefiting glucose and energy metabolism..
Research has shown People with abundant brown fat stores tend to be lean and have low blood sugar levels, and they even showed that ordinary white fat cells can transform into the beneficial brown fat cells.
However, until now, how brown fat is regulated in humans and its relationship with metabolism has been unclear.
Cold increased brown fat, while warmth suppressed itNew study suggests exposure to mild, colder tempratures stimulates "good" brown fat , while exposure to warmer temprature suppresses it.
During the first month, the rooms were set at 24º C, which the researchers describe as a "thermo-neutral" temperature at which the body does not need to work to either produce or lose heat.
For the second month, the temperature was moved down to 19º C, then back to 24º for the third month. For the final month, the temperature was moved up to 27º C.
All throughout this period, the researchers measured the men's brown fat using cold-stimulated PET/CT scans, and they measured tissue metabolic changes with muscle and fat biopsies.
Results showed that the mild cold (at 19º C) increased the men's brown fat amount and activity by about 30-40%, while the mild warmth (at 27º C) decreased the amount of brown fat to below that of baseline.
Furthermore, Dr. Lee notes that the increases in brown fat were "accompanied by improvement in insulin sensitivity and energy burning rate after food."
The study authors say their findings lead them to hypothesize that manipulating temperature in order to grow brown fat could be a promising strategy in obesity and diabetes treatment.
Dr. Lee notes that studies in both the UK and US measuring household temperatures in individual homes during the last few decades have shown that the temperature has climbed from around 19º C to around 22º C, which is "a range sufficient to quieten down brown fat."
"So in addition to unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, it is tempting to speculate that the subtle shift in temperature exposure could be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity," he concludes.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study that suggested shivering is as good as exercise for producing brown fat.
Written by Marie Ellis