The word ‘fats’ have always had a negative connotation to it, hasn’t it? Well, fats are not that bad! For example, brown fat has been hailed as being the good type of fat. It it beneficial in that it burns glucose to make heat. Some studies have even said that brown fat confers protection against diabetes and obesity. So, next question would be, how to acquire brown fat? Recently, scientists have suggested that this type of good fat can be stimulated to be produced by prolonged exposure to cold environments. The study has been published in the journal Diabetes.
Previously, in their past studies, the authors of the study found that brown fat stores would be associated with lean people who also had low blood sugar levels. What was unknown until now was how is the brown fat dealt with in the human body and how does it participate in metabolism. Therefore, the researchers aimed to pierce these mysteries. They tested the effects of temperature on the brown fat, hence the name of their research being the Impact of Chronic Cold Exposure in Humans (ICEMAN) study.
The subjects were chosen and they went about with their daily activities as they normally would, but, they would sleep in private rooms whose temperatures were controlled. The study lasted for a few months, whereby the temperature was varied. For instance, during the first month, the temperature of the rooms were set at 24˚C – the temperature whereby nothing was expected to happen in relation to the study, since at this temperature, the body does not need to furnish efforts to either generate or lose heat. During the next month, the temperature was decreased to 19˚C, and back at 24˚C for the third month. As for the fourth and last month, the temperature was made to go up to 27˚C. The researchers would calculate the concentration of brown fat the subjects had while also measuring the metabolic changes occurring in the tissues.
The results yielded thereof showed that mild cold caused an increase in the level of brown fat whereby activity was increased by 30-40 %. At the highest temperature (27˚C), the reverse occurred; that is, the amount of brown fat decreased below the normal level. The increase in brown fat was shown to be linked with better sensitivity to insulin and improved energy burning rate after food.
If the implications of the results are, in fact, positive to the body tissues, this could pave the way for new methods in treatment of people with impaired glucose metabolism. The authors further speculated that temperature, having an important bearing on brown fat production, could be modified to grow more brown fat to tackle obesity and diabetes.