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Gut Microbes Promote Fat Loss in the Cold

Brian Turner

Posted on March 01 2017

Cold exposure promotes weight loss by stimulating brown fat activity. Brown adipose (brown fat) is a special tissue that releases energy as heat rather than storing it as fat. Brown fat becomes more active in response to the activity of specific kinds of microbes in the gut. Swiss researchers from the University of Geneva, in a study on rats, found that cold exposure altered the composition of gut microbes, which increased insulin sensitivity and “browning” of white fat cells. The activity of these gut microbes might explain why cold exposure promotes fat loss. Viruses and bacteria affect food absorption and influence gut hormones that regulate appetite and metabolic rate (the rate you burn calories). Animals infected with a common human cold virus put on much more fat than uninfected animals. These same viruses were more common in overweight people, so there might be a link. The Pennington Medical Research Center in Louisiana, a leading center for obesity research, has even created a Virus and Obesity Department. (Cell, 163: 1360-1374, 2015)