There seems to be some good news coming from the recent Arctic blast of cold air. Brown fat cells (the “good” fat cells) are activated every time the body feels the icy cold wind. Full of mitochondria, brown fat cells are responsible for protecting vital organs. During the winter, that calls for burning extra glucose the body stores as white fat (the “bad” fat) cells for heat. Researchers found that men who slept in 66 degree temperatures for a month saw an increase of brown fat cells by 30-40%. On the other hand, brown fat cell levels fell below baseline when they slept in rooms where the temperature was above 80 degrees. This led to the question of whether stimulating these fat cells would help in obesity and type 2 diabetes. A study led by Dr. Hei Sook Sul of the University of California, Berkeley, showed that when mice were fed high fat diet, those who were exposed to transcription factor Zfp516 (the protein critical to brown fat cell formation) gained 30% less weight than those mice who were not exposed. While the exact time one has to be outside is unknown, Sul recommends giving it a try at a safe exposure. How do you feel about recommending colder sleeping environment? What other recommendations would you be comfortable to provide based on the results of this research?
For additional information please visit the Washington Post.
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