Unhealthy white fat cells like these are gobbled up by brown fat cells, offering scientists a research target for treating diabetes, obesity and heart disease
Cold-water bathing and exposure to frigid temperatures have been touted by health influencers on social media as a way to reduce anxiety, improve depression and burn calories. However, scientists have discovered that cold water can convert unhealthy white fat cells into healthy brown fat, which can help with weight loss, reduce glucose and cholesterol levels, and improve cardiovascular health. To activate the process of thermogenesis, which is the burning up of sugar and fat molecules to create heat, researchers have found a chemical target in the human body called a beta2-adrenergic receptor (b2-AR) that activates brown fat cells. A drug called salbutamol, typically used to treat asthma, was given to 10 volunteers in a study. Researchers saw that the drug dramatically increased the amount of sugar consumed by brown fat cells, indicating its potential to help fight diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Further research is required to find a way to activate the b2-AR receptor only on brown fat cells, in order to prevent side effects on other tissues in the body. The research was published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.