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30 minute ice-packs could be key to burning away body fat, say scientists

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Turn white fat into beige fat by painfully applying ice packs to your stomach :(

This can't be real. Can it?

Whoa, this sounds real:

Now scientists have discovered that when white fat gets very cold it can turn into a kind of brown fat, which researchers have dubbed ‘beige’.

And beige fat can burn away to generate heat.

"We wanted to investigate whether human adults had the ability to transform some white fat deposits into beige fat when they were exposed to cold," said Dr Philip Kern, one of the study authors from the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.

"Browning fat tissue would be an excellent defence against obesity. It would result in the body burning extra calories rather than converting them into additional fat tissue."

Yeah, it's real and been around quite awhile... Mark Sisson on his blog Mark's Daily Apple does a good job of making these findings actionable:

Exposure to cold increases your metabolism, leading to fat loss and a slew of other health benefits including the prevention and elimination of many metabolic syndrome and age-related diseases. Search - thermogenesis for many current studies.

Ray Cronise at Thermogenex - Fuel the Burn is a former NASA scientist and proponent of cold thermogenesis.

Dr. Jack Kruse has written extensively on the benefits of cold thermogenesis at COLD THERMOGENESIS 1: THEORY TO PRACTICE BEGINS: - Jack Kruse

Questions frequently asked on CT blogs:

1. What temperature and how long?-- This seems to be subject of debate, but it seems you should go for the coldest you can stand. Many report good success with ice packs on neck and belly for 30 minutes a night, others like cool baths and showers, while others will actually soak in a tub filled with ice cubes for 30-60 minutes. If you live in a cold climate, exposure to outside air below freezing for 30-60 minutes a day seems to work also.

2. Should I supplement with vitamins during CT?-- Keep your normal routine going. Some foods that are known to increase the effectiveness of CT are dark chocolate, turmeric, green tea, hot peppers, and cinnamon.

3. Do I need a ketogenic diet?-- Dr. K says yes, Ray Cronise says no. Both agree you should eat a diet free of PUFA and processed foods (SAD). 

4. How will I know if it's working?-- After 2-3 weeks, you will notice you shiver less and your body radiates heat more. Fat should start to come off effortlessly. You will not be as hungry since cold shunts hunger signals. 

5. Where is the magic? Just increased calorie burn?-- The real magic behind CT is in activation of BAT (brown fat) and Uncoupling Proteins. Read more: 

6. How do I get started?-- Start by filling a sink with ice cold water, cold tap water with ice cubes. Put your face in the water and leave as long as you can. This will activate your mammalian dive relex and prepare your body for longer exposure. Do this several times over a week or so. When this is tolerated well, begin taking cooler showers and baths. A common method is to take a hot shower, but for the last few minutes turn the temp down to as cold as you can stand. Work on increasing time spent in cold shower or bath. To speed it up, fill a tub with cool water and gradually add ice cubes (20-40lbs). This is an advanced technique. Swimming in an unheated swimming pool or lake or ocean is also a great way to get advantage of thermal loading.

Good primer about BAT here:

Why face instead of wrists?

Yeah, face in ice water seems particularly unpleasant.

There's a lot of fine vascularity in your face but why not just cool the larger veins in your wrists?  

The original article is about directly applying cold to SPECIFICALLY THE FAT that you want to convert to "beige fat". Mark's comments are about nutballs trying to convert as much fat as possible to "brown fat". Despite the fact that most of the brown fat in your body is in the back of the neck area and upper chest -- in other words, areas that most people don't perceive to have "fat" -- and that it is only activated at temperatures that are cold BUT NOT COLD ENOUGH TO INDUCE SHIVERING -- around 60 degrees, according to most researchers, which you could easily achieve by just not heating the house for most of the year -- and that there is some preliminary evidence that trying to increase brown fat too much can lead to tumors and artherosclerotic plaque growth... you know, GO BIG OR GO HOME. So the people Mark cite above are so freakin' HARD CORE that they want to apparently train the body to tolerate temps much colder than shivering. The ice water on the face thing is part of their training regime, to get your body to turn off some of its cold receptors so that you can presumably enjoy the "health benefits" of sitting around in ice water more quickly. It also DECREASES your metabolism, can potentially cause heart attacks, and has not really been shown to increase brown fat at all... but you know, YOLO!

Thank you.  The more you know.

4Hour Body by Tim Ferris has an interesting section about cold and reduction in body fat - including some data driven experimentation. 

Bottom line - which is nothing like this - is caloric burn jumps way up when our bodies are trying to stay warm and water is an awesome transferor of heat away from you. 

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