Categorized | Health, International, Local, Regional

Lose Fat While You Shower?

Q: I read that taking a cold shower helps the body burn more fat. Is a cold rinse a good way to help control weight?

A: Despite what you may have read on the Web or in other media, the short answer is no. Or at least it would have to be a very long and very cold shower—and even then, the effects on weight or body composition would be negligible.

Here’s why: Our bodies have two different types of fat. So-called white fat stores energy and is present in excess in people who are overweight. Brown fat, which is abundant in newborns but diminishes with age, produces energy and helps maintain body temperature. When activated, brown fat burns white fat as fuel—and cold exposure does indeed stimulate an increase in the amount and activity of brown fat. However, for that stimulation to occur, you would have to be exposed to cold nearly to the point of shivering for some uncomfortable minutes—and once the cold exposure stopped, the thermogenic (heat- and energy-producing) effects of the brown fat activity also would cease. So, you would get very little benefit in terms of fat-burning from that unpleasantly chilly shower.

Someday, research on brown fat may lead to new options in the prevention and treatment of obesity. But for now, the bottom line is that you can take a cold rinse at the end of your shower if you find it invigorating—but don’t count on that to help you burn fat.

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Q: I read that taking a cold shower helps the body burn more fat. Is a cold rinse a good way to help control weight?

A: Despite what you may have read on the Web or in other media, the short answer is no. Or at least it would have to be a very long and very cold shower—and even then, the effects on weight or body composition would be negligible.

Here’s why: Our bodies have two different types of fat. So-called white fat stores energy and is present in excess in people who are overweight. Brown fat, which is abundant in newborns but diminishes with age, produces energy and helps maintain body temperature. When activated, brown fat burns white fat as fuel—and cold exposure does indeed stimulate an increase in the amount and activity of brown fat. However, for that stimulation to occur, you would have to be exposed to cold nearly to the point of shivering for some uncomfortable minutes—and once the cold exposure stopped, the thermogenic (heat- and energy-producing) effects of the brown fat activity also would cease. So, you would get very little benefit in terms of fat-burning from that unpleasantly chilly shower.

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Someday, research on brown fat may lead to new options in the prevention and treatment of obesity. But for now, the bottom line is that you can take a cold rinse at the end of your shower if you find it invigorating—but don’t count on that to help you burn fat.