The Media Discovers Brown Fat

I want to thank Mike D and The TailGunner for sending me links to the recent brown fat stories. Looks like my cold weather exposure project, which I called No Jacket Required, has some medical merit. First, let’s review the story that hit the news wires. From Brown Fat: A Fat That Helps You Lose Weight? (

Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, including Enerbck’s, confirmed that brown-fat cells become more active in the cold that is, when study participants needed to boost their body temperature. Enerbck saw increased activity when he plunged one foot of each volunteer into an ice bath while in the scanner. In a separate study, scientists at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands also saw upticks in brown-fat activity in subjects who had been chilling in a 16C (61F) room for two hours.

The Washington Post article Studies Find A Way Adult Bodies May Fight Obesity had a brilliant summary quote.

The latest findings highlight once again the extent to which obesity is a consequence of Homo sapiens carrying into an era of abundance, leisure, and warmth the physiology that evolved in a world marked by barely enough food, constant physical activity and dangerous cold.

“We are living in a very comfortable time,” said Wouter D. van Marken Lichtenbelt, a physiologist at Maastricht University who led the Dutch study. “But we did not evolve in such a time.”

That is pretty much what I said in the post Maybe I Think Too Much But Some Thing’s Wrong.

For 99.99% of human evolution, we did not exist in a perfect temperature environment. We got hot and we got cold and our bodies learned how to deal with it. We now go from temperature-controlled homes to temperature controlled cars to temperature controlled offices.

I first heard about using cold temperatures to trigger brown adipose tissue to generate fat loss in the mid-1990s by steroid guru Dan Duchaine. He would have his bodybuilder clients do ice water baths prior to competition to strip off additional body fat. In recent years, Arthur De Vany has expanded upon this knowledge. From his 2005 paper Why We Get Fat:

During cold stress, lipoprotein lipase activity decreases in white adipose tissue and increases in brown adipose tissue.

Now that the media has discovered Brown Fat, who will join me on the project No Jacket Required? Here is my advice from Still No Jacket Required:

I still think anyone can benefit from some cold weather exposure. It doesnt need to be as extreme as what I did. Stay out in the cold longer and wear fewer layers. Youll get used to it. Youll be fine.

You may even lean out. I did.


Photo by Arne Hendriks. Shaded areas represent brown fat locations.


Add yours

  1. Loved your article on “The Media Discovers Brown Fat.” I have also read briefly in IDEA Today about this topic. I believe this is true for I myself I lose weight during the Holidays and always have attributed this to how cold I always am. Interesting and agreed, may I use some of the information in my newsletter?
    Be well,

  2. @Zoe – Sure, just link back to whatever you quote.

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