Shivering: Shivering in the cold might just be the unexpected key to weight management, according to recent research that highlights its similarity to exercise in aiding weight loss.
Unveiling the Brown Fat Connection
Scientists have discovered a fascinating parallel between shivering and exercise—they both prompt the release of hormones crucial for the production of ‘brown fat,’ a metabolically active type of fat previously believed to exist solely in infants. This discovery extends to adults, where higher levels of brown fat correlate with a leaner physique.
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Brown Fat: The Calorie-Burning Powerhouse
Unlike white fat, which stores energy, brown fat actively burns it. Just 50 grams of brown fat can torch up to 300 calories a day, mirroring the energy stored in 50 grams of white fat.
The Shivering Experiment
In experiments, volunteers were exposed to increasingly cold temperatures until shivering commenced around 15 degrees Celsius. This involuntary response stimulated the release of two key hormones: irisin and FGF21. These hormones, originating from shivering muscles and brown fat respectively, ramped up the energy-burning activity of human brown fat cells in laboratory conditions, triggering heat production—a hallmark of brown fat’s function.
Shivering: A Weight Loss Ally
Surprisingly, a mere 10 to 15 minutes of shivering resulted in a similar surge in irisin levels as an entire hour of moderate exercise. Even more intriguing was the laboratory observation: irisin and FGF21, when combined, transformed white fat cells into brown fat cells within just six days.
Dr. Paul Lee’s Insights
Taking to Dailymail, Dr. Paul Lee, the study leader, emphasizes the potential therapeutic role of brown fat against obesity and diabetes. Transforming white fat into brown fat could potentially offer protection against these health conditions, as evidenced in animals. Furthermore, individuals with higher brown fat content tend to exhibit lower glucose levels.
Future Implications: Leveraging Cold-Induced Hormones
These groundbreaking findings, detailed in the journal Cell Metabolism, hint at the potential of harnessing cold-induced hormones, particularly irisin and FGF21, for future obesity treatments by activating brown fat.
Exercise vs. Shivering: Comparative Results
Remarkably, volunteers exposed to cold and those engaging in an hour of moderate cycling produced similar amounts of irisin. This sheds light on the therapeutic potential of cold-induced hormones in combating obesity.