Want to Lose Weight?? Enlist the Help of a Friend

Microbiome and brown fat

vlorzor / Dollar Photo Club

What if I told you that you could lose weight without doing a darn thing, so long as you had some help from a friend?

Sounds like an ad for the newest wonder supplement for weight loss.  Get this great new weight loss product for $3 (just pay $59.95 for shipping and handling) with a money back guarantee (not including the S & H).

But no.  This is something far more legit (and free, by the way…).

But first, we need to review the different types of body fat.  And not just the unwanted fat that hangs around your middle and organs and increases your risk of all those nasty chronic diseases.  There are three types of body fat:

  1. White fat–the bad stuff that does nothing but sit there and cause problems
  2. Brown fat–fat that burns calories like crazy to produce heat; as close to the answer for weight gain that the human body has
  3. Beige fat–an in-between state of fat as it transitions from useless white fat to the desirable brown fat

Until recently, scientists thought the brown fat was only present in babies and bats.  As humans age, they lose brown fat, never to get back those heat-generating, calorie-burning fat cells.

Or, at least that’s what we thought.  Turns out that we can actually “brown” our white fat cells, changing the makeup of the fat cell so that it begins to burn calories to generate heat.  On the flip side, certain lifestyle choices have been shown to lower the amount of brown fat.  Some of these are very simple to implement.  Most notable of these is the use of artificial sweeteners (just in case you’re STILL using them to lose weight, this little factoid should wake you up).  I’ve covered many of these factors in a previous article that can be read by clicking here.

The one factor that I need to review in the context of this blog article has to do with exposure to cooler temps.  In a small study, volunteers who were exposed to cooler temps (60 degrees F) for 6 hours per day increased his or her brown fat by a respectable 37% in 10 short days.

Pretty cool.  It certainly makes sense for our bodies to raise the internal thermostat (so to speak) when exposed to short term cold.  It’s about adaptation.  But how exactly does this happen?  This group of researchers turned to mice to get a better grip on how this happens.

And the results are pretty surprising.

In this particular study, researchers exposed mice to slowly colder temps over the course of a month and watched how the mice’s bodies responded.  But they ALSO kept an eye on the bacteria in the gut.  Here’s what they found:

  • The cold exposure led to a dramatic shift of the bacteria in the gut (microbiome).
  • The cold mice developed more brown and beige fat, lost weight and had lower diabetes markers.
  • Here’s the shocking part–transplantation of the cold mice microbiome into germ-free mice LED TO THESE SAME POSITIVE CHANGES.
  • But before all of you living in the frigid tundra of Minnesota, prolonged cold led to adaptive changes–the gut actually enlarged to make sure it could grab even more calories to support the brown fat burning calories (increasing intestinal, villi, and microvilli lengths).

To make this even more interesting, the researchers were able to pinpoint a particular bacteria, Akkermansia muciniphila, as having the most potent effect.  Which may not be surprising–I have covered this bacteria before in its ability to fight off diabetes and its relationship with well-trained athletes.

Back to my opening statement.  Yes, you can lose weight during next to nothing.  All you have to do is find a friend to freeze his or her butt off for 10 days and then do a fecal transplant from your cold-adapted friend.

Better be a pretty good friend….

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.