February 08, 2016
If you’re like many, the last thing you want to do is get out of bed when it’s cold outside. If you live in a colder climate, you more than likely dread winter. And, doesn’t it seem like the winter months last longer than the warmer months? So, how on earth could there possibly be any benefit to the cold weather? But what if we told you that the cold weather may help you shed a few pounds, would you be surprised? Well wait before you pack up house and move to the other side of the country, there’s still a lot more research needed.
We already know that our gut microbes have been shown to play a role in a wide variety of health conditions, but it’s still not yet clear how they contribute to obesity. However, late last year, a team of researchers from Geneva, Switzerland set out to answer that question and determine if there was a connection between gut microbes, external temperature, and weight control.
To find out, the team exposed germ-free mice to cold temperatures, and documented their findings. As the body temperature of the mice dropped, the team observed that the composition of intestinal bacteria dramatically altered with the change in temperature. The shifts in the gut microbes were enough to burn fat, improve their blood sugar levels, and reduce body weight. In other words, the exposure to the cold temperatures was similar to the effects of exercise, protection against obesity and improved metabolic health.
The research team transplanted the altered microbiota composition, now referred to as “cold microbiota”, into germ-free mice and documented the results. The transplanted “cold microbiota” increased insulin sensitivity and brown fat in the recipient mice. Bet you thought fat was only white? Well not all fat cells are created equal, and unlike white fat that stores calories, brown fat burns energy and produces heat. This showed that the microbes alone were largely responsible for the changes they found.
During the study, it was also observed that Akkermansia muciniphilato, a microbe associated with obesity and diabetes, had virtually all but disappeared. And, naturally as with all living creatures, it’s a matter of survival. The longer the mice were exposed to the cold, the more they adapted. They began to eat more in order to survive and as their caloric uptake increased, the surface area of their gut expanded. Their initial weight loss eventually tapered off. The researchers, transplanted this shift, or adaptive effect, into other germ-free mice, and noticed their microbial makeup significantly shift. Once again, the mice began to lose weight and have improved metabolic health. The study shows that the gut microbiota in the mice can help control overall energy balance in situations of increased demand.
It’s all very interesting and the findings may one day be able to lead to new treatments but there’s a big “if” in whether we can apply this to humans just yet. As with many of these studies we read, there are unanswered questions. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating when you think about the active role that gut microbes play in how the body obtains energy from food intake and how certain bacteria may even prevent weight gain by decreasing absorption in the gut. You can learn more about how probiotics might help with weight loss by clicking here.
The post Can Living in a Cold Climate Equate to Gaining Less Weight? appeared first on Natren Probiotics Blog.
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