According to a recent study published in Diabetologia, exposure to cold air could help treat type 2 diabetes.
Published by Maastricht University in the Netherlands ahead of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting, the study looked into the impact of colder temperatures on those with the condition and their levels of brown fat.
Previous research had shown that brown fat could play a major role in lowering blood glucose and improving insulin sensitivity in humans, helping them to reduce insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes.
Brown fat is the type of fat the body uses to keep itself warm when it gets cold, often this type of fat develops during the winter when the temperatures drop; cold exposure, subsequent shivering, and this brown fat could help treat type 2 diabetes.
What’s the difference between brown fat and normal fat?
Normal fat is also known as white fat, this is the type of substance which forms around the internal organs and increases the risk of heart disease; while the body needs some form of brown fat, it needs as little white fat as possible.
One of the study authors, Adam Sellers, said: “Brown fat is a metabolic heating system inside our bodies, burning calories. This generates heat and prevents calories from being deposited as normal white fat. Brown fat is activated during cold and when we eat, but its activity is less in older adults and in individuals with obesity and diabetes.”
Sellers continued: “When we are cold, we can activate our brown fat because it burns energy and releases heat to protect us. In addition, muscle can contract mechanically, or shivers, thereby generating heat.
“As there is considerably more muscle than brown fat in a human, shivering can burn more calories and produce more heat.”
During the study, the researchers exposed 15 obese or overweight participants to 10 consecutive days of cold temperatures to activate shivering for one hour a day.
The results of the study showed that those who repeated cold-induced shivering had significantly reduced levels of plasma concentrations as well as improved glucose tolerance by around six percent.
Furthermore, repeated cold exposure also reduced both types of blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, improving cardiovascular health and reducing the resting heart rate.
While there were several limitations, the authors said “this is an important first step investigating the effect of shivering on health. Our findings are promising and may have important health implications, given that shivering improved many cardiometabolic health outcomes which are associated with diseases like type 2 diabetes.”
Sellers added: “In future studies, we plan to assess the effect of shivering in adults with type 2 diabetes.”
Subsequently, as winter rolls in, the lower temperatures could help close to five million people with a form of diabetes manage their conditions and improve the levels of brown fat as well as reduce their blood pressure.
This comes as more studies are published on the impact of type 2 diabetes on a range of people both young and old; this includes pregnant women.
A recent report published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) found that diabetes in pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of heart and cerebrovascular disease such as gestational diabetes.