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Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:49

Lose Weight by Shivering? What is Brown Fat?

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As reported in Science Daily, a new study by Dr. Paul Lee of Sydney's Garavan Institute for the NIH shows that exposure to cold temperature may convert white fat to brown fat, thus helping to fight obesity. What is "healthy" brown fat, and how does it reduce weight?

The human body has (at least) two types of fats. One is normal white fat that is generated when the body takes in more calories than it needs. The second is called "brown fat," or brown adipose tissue (BAT). Brown fat is a special type of fat that generates heat. It is normally found in infants, and animals that hibernate or need protection from cold. Brown fat is good fat because it can burn up to 300 calories a day in heat.

Dr. Lee's study found that exposure to shivering cold increased levels of a hormone called irisin which converts white fat to brown fat. The brown fat activated and produced energy in the form of heat. According to Science Daily, "around 10-15 minutes of shivering resulted in equivalent rises in irisin as an hour of moderate exercise."

So to lose weight, should you go stand out in the cold? Dr. Lee recommends only a mild exposure. You can listen to a short radio interview by Dr. Lee for the BBC here.

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