An obese child
An obese child REUTERS/Joe Tan

Being cold burns fat storage, improves glucose metabolism and reduces body weight, a new study suggests. Scientists at the University of Geneva found that exposure to cold temperatures alter the composition of intestinal bacteria, resulting to these effects.

Scientists exposed mice to six degrees Celsius temperature for 10 days. This caused a major microbial shift in the composition of microbes, preventing weight gain. Next, they transplanted the cold-induced gut bacteria into other mice that did not harbour gut microbes. This resulted in improved glucose metabolism and encouraged weight loss in mice. Despite being tested on mice, the team believes that this could help overweight and obese people.

“We provide compelling evidence that gut microbes play a key role in our ability to adapt to the environment by directly regulating our energy balance,” Mirko Trajkovski of the University of Geneva said to Western Daily Press. "We are excited about exploring the therapeutic potential of these findings and testing whether targeting some of these microbes could be a promising approach for preventing obesity and related metabolic conditions."

Trajkovski believes that this could promote the growth of brown and beige fat, the good types of fat found in infants and adults. Infants have brown fat to generate heat while adults retain brown fat stores consisting of a subtype called beige fat.

However, after three weeks of cold exposure, the body weight began to stabilise. The intestine absorbed more nutrients from food, which balanced weight loss from energy expenditure. Nevertheless, the researchers plan to study further about how certain bacteria may prevent obesity by remodelling intestinal tissue and decreasing the absorption of nutrients in the gut.

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