Spending time in low temperatures and consumption of chemicals found in chili peppers both appear to increase the number and activity of so-called brown fat cells, which burn energy, rather than store it as typical "white" fat cells do, said Takeshi Yoneshiro, a researcher at Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan.
In the study, researchers exposed eight people with little or no brown fat cells to moderately low temperatures of 17 degrees Celsius for two hours daily, over the course of six weeks.
Compared with the control subjects, the cold-exposed people had about 5 percent less body fat at the end of the study, and also burned more energy when exposed to cold.
The researchers also looked at people who ate capsinoids, which are normally found in chili peppers, for six weeks, and found they also burned more energy than the control group when exposed to cold, but didn't lose any more white fat than the control group.
Capsinoids appear to induce brown fat in the same way as cold, by ‘capturing’ the same cellular system that the body's nervous system uses to increase heat production, Yoneshiro said.
Yoneshiro said that the experiment might not have continued for long enough to see white-fat-burning effects of the compounds.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


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