brown fat

Have you heard of brown fat—aka “good” fat? Naturally present in humans (particularly infants), brown fat consumes calories to generate heat. The catch? Researchers are still looking for a way to activate it in the body. Several studies have shown that it can be activated by cold exposure in a process called non-shivering thermogenesis, and now a recent study suggests that exposure to cold temperatures may indeed flip the switch.

Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center tested 10 study subjects in three ways. They were each separately given injections of ephedrine (which has been used as a weight-loss drug), given injections of saline as a control, and made to wear “cooling vests” that had water cooled to 57 degrees pumped into them. After each intervention, the brown fat activity was measured using PET/CT scans.

Though brown fat activity was the same after the ephedrine and saline injections, after wearing the cooling vests for two hours, subjects’ brown fat activity was significantly stimulated.

Aaron Cypess, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin and lead author of the study, noted that although both interventions —ephedrine injections and the cooling vests—did result in the same number of calories being burned, the stimulation in brown fat activity was only noted after wearing the vest.

Though the study was small, the results are encouraging and may offer a glimpse into a method of helping prevent or reverse obesity. Researchers hope that with these results, cooling vests and drugs that mimic the effects may not be too far off in the future.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if someone wore a cooling vest at the same time as a pair of that fat-burning underwear from Japan…Sounds confusing, no?

Would you wear weight-loss clothing? 

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