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Cold Thermogenesis & Brown Adipose Tissue

Cold exposure can improve cardiovascular health by increasing the production of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing the production of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)

Cold Thermogenesis 101

Have you heard that cold exposure is good for you? Well, let me tell you that has more benefits than you could imagine. Cold thermogenesis is the process of exposing the body to cold temperatures, in order to improve health and longevity. Numerous health advantages of exposure to cold have been demonstrated, including increased immunological function, decreased inflammation, and improved insulin sensitivity (Ivanova1 & Blondin1, 2021). Additionally, it can boost the creation of Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT), a type of fat that plays a key role in regulating body temperature and metabolism (Fenzl & Kiefer, 2014).


But what adaptations does the body make when exposed to cold? Well, the physiological mechanisms of exposure to cold is complex and involves different processes in the body. When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, it responds by constricting the blood vessels in the skin in order to save heat and protect internal organs. This process is known as Vasoconstriction. At the same time, the body increases the production of heat by burning stored fat (Yes, you’ll burn fat). This process is known as Thermogenesis (Ivanova1 & Blondin1, 2021).

Introducing BAT (Brown Adipose Tissue)

I mentioned above that cold exposure boosts the creation of BAT. But what does that mean? BAT is a form of fat that has a lot of mitochondria in it, which are the parts of cells that produce energy. When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, it stimulates the production of BAT, which can increase energy expenditure and improve insulin sensitivity. This is because BAT burns fat to produce heat, which can lower blood sugar levels and enhance metabolism in general (Fenzl & Kiefer, 2014).

This image shows the metabolic impact of cold exposure and how it generates the production of BAT. BAT shows a higher number of mitochondria, which leads to an increase in energy expenditure, improved insulin sensitivity and an enhanced metabolism. Source: (Fenzl & Kiefer, 2014)

Cold exposure not only increases the production of BAT, but it also has a number of other health benefits. It can help decrease the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body, thus reducing inflammation. It can also boost the immune system by increasing the production of immune cells and enhancing their performance. Also, cold exposure can improve cardiovascular health by increasing the production of the well known “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing the production of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) (Singh et al., 2021).

This image shows metabolic adaptations to cold exposure and how it can improve your overall health. Source: (Singh et al., 2021)

Embrace the Cold: Ice Baths and beyond..

Ok, lots of benefits but how can you incorporate these in your life on a daily basis? There are several ways in which you can expose yourself to cold temperature. One way is to take cold showers or ice baths, which can help stimulate the production of BAT and improve insulin sensitivity. You can also go swimming in cold water, which has a similar effect. Using an ice pack or cold pack on your skin is another technique to practice cold thermogenesis. And if you are a little bit more hardcore, you can participate in cold water sports, such as ice swimming or ice diving.  

To wrap up, cold thermogenesis is a powerful tool to extending life and enhancing health. By exposing your body to cold temperatures, you can increase the production of BAT, leading to a better insulin sensitivity and metabolism. Other health advantages are lowering inflammation and enhancing the immune system and your cardiovascular health.


So, what are you waiting for? Start with getting a quick cold shower (start off with some seconds and gradually increase the time) and then try other methods such as swimming in cold water. By incorporating cold exposure in your routine, you will enhance your overall well-being and longevity. And keep on reading for more tips on how to optimize your metabolism.