A new study reveals two seemingly strange ways to accelerate fat burning and lose weight: chili peppers and low temperatures. The study found that both of these things increase the amount and effectiveness of brown fat cells in the body.
Unlike the more common white fat cells that store energy, brown fat cells are excellent at burning energy. This is because brown fat cells use energy to help regulate body temperature.
The study was conducted in Japan by Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine. According to medicine professor Dr. Clifford Rosen of Tufts University, who did not have any involvement in the study, no previous study has proven it possible to incite brown fat growth and activity in people who lack brown fat cells to begin with.
Cold Temps, Chilis Burn Fat
During the study, eight subjects with very little brown fat tissue were exposed to 63-degree temperatures for two hours per day over six weeks. Meanwhile, a control group was not required to be exposed to any specific temperatures. The individuals in the cold group had approximately 5% less overall body fat than those in the control group by the end of the study period, and were also able to burn more energy in the presence of cold temperatures. Finally, those in the cold group had smaller amounts of white fat cells at the study’s end.
An additional group of subjects ate capsinoids over the course of the six-week study period. Capsinoids are found naturally in chili peppers. The individuals in this group were also better able to burn energy in the presence of cold temperatures as compared to the control group, though their levels of white fat remained about the same.
However, according to Takeshi Yoneshiro, one of the lead researchers behind the study, the study’s results relating to capsinoids may have been very different had the study gone on longer. He pointed to an earlier 12-week study in which taking capsinoids resulted in significant losses in body fat among people with mild obesity. Another recent study detected results including smaller waist sizes and faster breakdown of fat within just six weeks.
A New Weight Loss Drug on the Horizon?
According to Jan Nedergaard, a Swedish physiologist with no direct involvement in the study, the findings suggest that chemicals could be used to spur brown fat growth and subsequently battle obesity. However, Nedergaard said that it may be more effective at preventing people of a normal body weight from becoming fat, since brown fat cells may not burn enough energy to make a significant difference for those with serious weight problems.
Nedergaard also said that if a drug eventually comes about as a result of this research, it will likely be based on an alternative to capsinoids instead of capsinoids themselves. This is because capsinoids are all-natural and therefore cannot be patented, which prevent drug companies from making money off of them.
Further, Nedergaard said that the link between capsinoids and fat burning is more interesting than the link between cold temperatures and fat burning. This is because it’s very difficult to put cold temperature fat loss into practice.
About Brown Fat Cells
Until 2009, it was believed that only babies had brown fat cells. However, three separate studies all found that adults indeed have some brown fat, mostly in their neck and upper chest. The color of brown fat comes from the fact that it’s dense with mitochondria that burn energy.
Just last year, researchers discovered a new type of fat known as beige fat. Beige fat works similarly to brown fat, though it’s actually produced by white fat cells. Researchers believe that the “brown fat” that develops due to cold temperatures or capsinoid ingestion may in fact be beige fat.
The Bottom Line
Exposure to cold temperatures and the ingestion of capsinoids found in various types of peppers may help an obese person burn body fat thanks to the production of new brown fat tissues, according to a recent Japanese study.
The full text of the study is available in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.