During World War I it was discovered that many of the chemicals for the new explosives they were working on had toxic or even lethal effects on the workers in the munitions’ factories. The chemicals extremely boost metabolism so much workers were found somewhere along the road after work covered in sweat with a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit or even 109 before they died and then even after death their temperatures kept going up like a total body meltdown. At subacute doses, though, workers claimed to have grown thin to a notable extent after several months of working with the chemical.
That got some Stanford pharmacologists excited about the promising metabolic applications of DNP. Only one dose and a resting metabolic rate jumps up 30%. An actual fat-burning drug!
People started losing weight and there were no apparent side-effects as a result of their weight reducing treatment. On the contrary, they felt great. But suddenly thousands of people started going blind and users started dropping dead from hypothyroid fatal fever from the heat created by the burning fat.
They still continued to sell those chemicals. After all it was a remedy that promised easy weight loss without diet or exercise. But the therapeutic index was razor thin – a razor thin difference between the effective dose and the deadly dose. It was not until thousands suffered irreversible harm that the drug got pulled from the market.
Today, of course, you can buy it again from the Internet. A dream for those literally dying to be thin … And as you can never be sure of the exact amount of chemicals contained in pills bought from the Internet, you should NEVER buy any such products. You could put your life in danger!
Our body also naturally burns fat, though, to create heat. When we are born, we go from the tropical conditions of our mother’s womb straight to room temperature and we’re all wet and slimy. This represents a challenge for thermo regulation, for maintaining our warm body temperature.
As an adaptive mechanism we developed a unique organ around 150 million years ago. It allows mammals to maintain our high body temperatures. That unique organ is called brown adipose tissue or brown fat. Its role is to consume fat calories by generating heat in response to exposure to the cold.
The white fat in our bellies stores fat but the brown fat located up between our shoulder blades burns fat. It’s essential for thermogenesis, the creation of heat in newborns. But it’s considered unnecessary in adults who have higher metabolic rates and increase muscle mass for shivering to warm up if we ever get cold.
So, we no longer use the brown fat when we grow up and it just shrinks. But if it was still there, then it could potentially make a big difference for how many calories we burn every day. Supposedly we outgrew it, but when PET scans were invented to detect metabolically active tissues like cancer, oncologists kept finding hot spots in the neck and shoulder regions that on CT scan turned out not to be cancer but fat.
Then some observant radiologists noticed that those hot spots appeared in patients mostly during the cold winter months and when we take a closer look at tissue samples taken from people who had undergone neck surgery we find it to be brown fat in adults.
The common message from these studies is that brown adipose tissue is also present and active in adults and the more we have, and the more active it is, the thinner we are. The good news is: we can rapidly activate our fat burning brown fat by exposure to cold temperatures. For example, if you hang out in a cold room for two hours in your undies and put your legs on a block of ice for four minutes every five minutes, you can elicit a marked increase in energy expenditure thanks to brown fat activation.
So, the studies point to a potential natural intervention to stimulate energy expenditure: turn down the heat, burn calories, and reduce your carbon footprint in the process. But thankfully for those of us who would rather not lay our bare legs on blocks of ice, our brown fat can also be activated by some foods that we’ll cover in a future article.
As found on Youtube