I eat a lot. Many people eat a lot. I bet you eat a lot, sometimes. On one spontaneous day, I saw that I had a conflict between my adoration for chow and my muscles. I flush a bit red just thinking about my favourite sport but my facial capillaries display a wondrous shade of fuchsia when I actually run; running is my jam.
I thought I was a professional runner when I got my school’s track and field shirt. I also thought I was a professional runner when I beat a running boy with a Mario bullet on his t-shirt in grade five so I’m probably not elite. In fact, my first Sun Run results were comparable to a gaunt cow. That is why I classify myself as a recreational runner. However, at one point during my impressive long-distance career, it occurred to me that my weight could be the culprit of my ongoing failure. So instinctively, I started performing daily self-slaughtering training sessions religiously. After many burning sensations, I pondered if there was an easier way so I consulted Google. A twinkling New Scientist article appeared. Alas! The biology labs said “No more flabs.” So I got excited. I thought I would zoom my light-weight way to the Olympics.
A specific fat, or brown adipose tissue, that we have is the key for slimness. The same flapping fat that secretes under our chin can make us thin. It was thought that only animals had this paradoxical formula but fresh evidence announced that certain human individuals have it.
In 2002, a PET-CT scan suspected this fat. Neon areas of the x-ray images were revealed to be present when a patient was cold during screening. Those spots disappeared when the patient was scanned in a warmer room. By providing heat, this fat appeared solely on the scan in the cold room.
Another study by the US army identified the substance by locking 10 men in rooms at 11 °C for months. After repeated exposure to the cold, their trembling decreased; this suggested that their bodies had somehow found a way to adapt.
Brown fat is not the same as the stereotypical “white” fat. It turns out that this layer provides heat 300 times more efficiently than any other part of the body thanks to its innumerable mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell. Its mitochondria also gives the colour to its name. Instead of exercising to activate the normal stored fat, you may activate this fat simply by shivering or eating spicy food.
Switching the heat off radically or destroying your taste buds is not necessary although a minor change in usual habits is needed. Without keeping a permanent habit of exposing oneself to the cold or spice, the cellular miracle will be lost by reversing its effects. It won’t hurt to plunge into an Arctic basin once in a while, drink the frosty rain or an iced beverage, jog outside instead of doing an indoor cardiovascular workout or sleep in a room at 18 °C.
Scientists are working on surgical and pharmaceutical treatments that may treat diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease and your working-out laziness. The confirmed non-drug-spice-and-cold way is still eating healthy and exercising.
So stop sitting around.
(The published articles’ dates below are : 1.= 2015, 2. = 2009, 3.= 2000, 4. 2014)