Question: Having tried unsuccessfully to lose weight for many years with diet pills, fasting, exercises, diets and goodness knows what else, my supportive husband suggested I get in touch to see whether you have any other solutions. Do you?
Answer: There is another approach you could try. It will cost you nothing, but it demands quite a bit of determination.
It’s based on a new study showing that cold water burns up exactly the type of body fat we want to get rid of. But not by drinking it. Although there is some scientific evidence that drinking 2 L/day of water helps burn calories, the effect is much too slow to be useful.1
The new research I’m referring to shows that water works its wonders in other ways. When we come into contact with cold water or ice, it sets in motion our ‘shivering system,’ which activates certain fat cells to burn calories instead of storing them. According to a study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), intense shivering for 15 minutes has the same effect on us—and our metabolism—as a vigorous workout for a whole hour.2
So, can you slenderize yourself just by shivering? The answer lies in the metabolism of our adipose (fat) tissues. Only recently was it discovered that, apart from white fat, which makes us plump and portly, we possess a beige-brown variety of fat, which can actually makes us slim.
The problem is that these ‘beneficial’ brown fat cells are not naturally particularly active. So, if you can stir these brown fat cells out of their usual slumber, you will begin to shed weight by unleashing processes that neither diets nor sports can trigger.
According to the NIH researchers, the reason for this is simply that these darker fat cells contain an above-average number of mitochondria. These tiny cellular components play an important role in our metabolism: they process sugars and lipids derived from what we eat, to extract the vital energy they need to function. Not without reason, mitochondria are called the ‘powerhouses’ of our body’s cells. And it’s only through them that the ‘beneficial’ fat is able to transform ingested calories into heat—something they do with three times the efficiency of any other type of body tissue.
This effect is especially important in newborns, who are not yet able to regulate their own body-heat balance, so they cool off rather quickly. In babies, the beige-brown fat deposits make up about 5 percent of their total body weight, while adults only have a few grams of brown fat—located around the neck and shoulders, and along the spine. But it’s less a matter of fat quantity, and more about how active the beige-brown fat cells are. And their activity is easily promoted, the NIH researchers have discovered.
Temperatures between 15° C (59° F) and 20° C (68° F) exert a cold-irritation stimulus on the body. To maintain the normal body temperature of 37° C (98.6° F), the body initiates a chain reaction that begins with multiple discharges of the hormone norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) which, in turn, activates the protein thermogenin in beige-brown fat cells, firing up the body’s thermal power stations, which incinerate stored fat. Simultaneously, shivering ensures that the muscles contract rhythmically, thereby releasing the fat-burning hormone irisin into the bloodstream. This hormone can also transform ‘bad fat’ into ‘good fat.’ This is how the body’s mass of brown fat grows, and its energy turnover at cooler temperatures is increased. After two months of daily ‘cold therapy’ (cold exposure), the calories burned by the study participants more than doubled.
For you to experiment with ‘cold therapy,’ you don’t have to wait for winter or install an air conditioner in your home; cold water is all you need.
Here are five tricks (below)to kick-start your shivering system and shift your body into weight-loss mode.
Fennel for fat loss
Drinking fennel seed water, preferably ice-cold, is a good companion strategy for your cold-water fat-burning weight-loss plan.
Fennel seeds contain substantial quantities of iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, copper, and vitamins A, B6 and C. They also contain healthy, volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol and cineole. These active components have demonstrated antioxidant, digestive and antiflatulent properties.1
A study from Germany’s Thuringian State Institute of Agriculture found that fennel seeds can assist in appetite suppression and boost the body’s basic metabolic rate.2 Drinking fennel seed water, an effective diuretic, can help you lose the kilograms of water you may be carrying unnecessarily as part of your weight.3
Fennel seeds also contain melatonin, which promotes sleep. A rat study (so it may not apply to humans) done at the University of Granada in Spain linked fennel seed to melatonin and showed that melatonin encourages the growth of beige-brown fat, so promoting weight loss.4 Fennel seeds even have anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antimicrobial effects.5
Recipe for fennel seed water
1 L filtered water
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
One glass jar
1) Place the fennel seeds in the glass jar containing the filtered water.
2) Seal the jar tightly and let it sit overnight in the fridge. At first the seeds will float but, by morning, they will have sunk to the bottom.
3) Transfer to an insulated flask to keep the drink cold and sip it throughout the day. Note: drinking more of it won’t make you lose weight any quicker.
Fennel seeds are widely used in cooking to add flavor to food, such as sausages and fish dishes. Many people chew the seeds after eating to help with digestion and limit flatulence.
While the small amounts typically used in food are safe, using larger, medicinal amounts of fennel seeds isn’t safe for everyone. Although very rare, fennel seeds can trigger allergic reactions in some people, including breathing difficulties, hives, rash, swelling of the lips and face, and closing of the throat. When taken in excess, fennel may even increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
The Health Encyclopedia on the Norris Cotton Cancer Center website (http://cancer.dartmouth.edu/pf/health_encyclopedia/d04493a1) also warns that fennel can increase seizure risk, and advises against taking fennel medicinally without first consulting your healthcare provider if you have epilepsy or other seizure disorder, or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
The cold-water cure
1) Keep a cool head. To accustom yourself to the cold-water routine, dip your face for about five seconds into cool water (about 15° C to 18° C, or 59° F to 64° F) and repeat five times.
2) The ice age. Suck ice cubes or wrap a bag of frozen peas in a towel to make a cold pack and place it for 30 minutes on your pesky fat pads.
3) The cold shoulder. Most people have their biggest deposits of ‘good’ fat at the level of the collarbone just below the throat. Activate this ‘good’ fat by placing two cold packs for about 30 minutes on each naked shoulder.
4) Ice baths. The cold shock is particularly effective when the whole body is affected. According to the study, 20 minutes in a cold-water bath or shower at a maximum temperature of 15° C (59° F) will suffice.
5) Cold feet. If you can’t manage a full immersion in cold water, shower your legs and feet for about 15 seconds with cold water, followed by a 10-second pause, and repeat 10 times. Even small cold-irritation stimuli are enough to make the body switch into shiver mode.