An icy swim may reduce ‘bad’ body fat

Credit: mali maeder/ Pexels

In a study from UiT The Arctic University of Norway and elsehwere, scientists found taking a dip in cold water may cut “bad” body fat in men and reduce the risk of disorders such as diabetes.

Many of the 104 studies they analyzed showed strong effects from cold water swimming including also on “good” fat, which helps burn calories. This may protect against obesity and heart disease.

However, the review was inconclusive overall on the health benefits of cold-water bathing, an increasingly popular hobby.

Much of the available research involved small numbers of participants, often of one gender, and with differences in water temperature and salt composition.

In addition, it is unclear whether or not winter swimmers are naturally healthier.

Weight loss, better mental health, and increased libido are among numerous health and well-being claims made by followers of regular cold-water immersion or arising from anecdotal cases.

This activity takes many forms such as swimming in cold water during the winter and is the subject of growing interest worldwide.

The main aim of the review was to determine whether voluntary exposure to cold water has health effects in humans. The methodology involved a detailed search of the scientific literature.

Immersion in cold water has a major impact on the body and triggers a shock response such as an elevated heart rate.

Some studies provided evidence that heart risk factors are actually improved in swimmers who have adapted to the cold. However, other studies suggest the workload on the heart is still increased.

The review suggests positive links between cold water swimming and brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of “good” body fat that is activated by cold.

BAT burns calories to maintain body temperature, unlike “bad” white fat that stores energy.

Cold exposure in water—or air—appears also to increase the production of adiponectin by adipose tissue. This protein plays a key role in protecting against insulin resistance, diabetes, and other diseases.

Repeated cold-water immersions during the winter months strongly increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin concentrations. This was for both inexperienced and experienced swimmers.

However, the authors point out that the profile of swimmers participating in the studies did vary. They ranged from elite swimmers or established winter bathers to those with no previous winter swimming experience.

Others were not strictly ice bathers but used cold-water immersion as a treatment after exercise.

If you care about weight loss, please read studies about 10 small changes you can make to prevent weight gain, and this popular weight loss diet can harm your liver health.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that green tea may protect your body as a vaccine, and results showing that these existing drugs can kill COVID-19 virus.

The study was conducted by James Mercer et al and published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health.

Copyright © 2022 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.