Forget the sauna: New research suggests that getting a little chilly might help the body lose weight, reports CTV. Canadian researchers found that exposing men to lower temperatures—until they were at the "threshold of shivering"—activated their stores of "brown fat," and that brown fat in turn started burning calories. "We found there were about 250 extra kilocalories burned over three hours." The finding might explain why some people can handle the cold better—they might have more brown fat.
It's another dent in the mystery of the substance, which is kind of like the biological alter ego of ordinary white fat. Brown fat is "good fat" in the sense that it actually burns calories instead of storing them, explains CTV. Adults don't have a lot of it, so researchers are figuring out ways to activate what's there. But don't head outside in the cold just yet. "We still don't know if activating it (brown fat) is a good idea or not," says the lead researcher, "so it is still premature to use that as a therapeutic target for (obesity)." The New York Times notes that another study suggests that exercise can turn white fat into brown fat in mice. (Click to read about how related research is raising hopes for an "exercise pill.")