Just chilling could be the way to beat the flab

Cold could be used to battle obesity, research has shown.

Simple cooling vests which lower the body’s temperature could help shed the pounds, the findings suggested.

Scientists say that brown fat, a “good” fat which burns calories, is activated by the cold.

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It is found naturally in humans and consumes calories to generate heat. It was known that it could be activated by exposure to cold, in a process called non-shivering thermogenesis.

Activating brown fat on cue has puzzled scientists, reported the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science US.

A team from Joslin diabetes centre in Boston, Massachusetts, worked to see if the drug ephedrine could be used as a trigger.

While the team concluded that it cannot, the work has opened the door to more research into how cold, or agents which mimic the effects of cold, could be used to fight obesity.

Dr Aaron Cypess said: “We propose that agents that work similarly to cold in activating brown fat specifically can provide promising approaches to fighting obesity while minimising other side effects.

“At the same time, we now know that ephedrine is not the way to do it.”

For the study, the team gave participants injections of either ephedrine or a control saline solution and asked them to wear “cooling vests” containing water at 14C. Their fat activity was then measured.

Researchers found that brown fat was the same following both the ephedrine and saline injections.

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However, after the subjects wore the cooling vests for two hours, their brown fat activity was stimulated significantly.

Both interventions – ephedrine injections and the wearing of the cooling vests – did result in the same number of calories being burned, Dr Cypess noted.

He said: “This is the first time it has been found that ephedrine does not turn on brown fat.”

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