Cold temperatures, vitamin A can help the body burn more fat, study shows

People looking to lose weight may start embracing the winter months after a new study found cold temperatures and increased vitamin A encourage fat burning.

The study, which was published in the journal Molecular Metabolism last week, explored the effects cold temperatures and vitamin A had on converting white fat, which is where excess calories are stored, to brown fat, which “stimulates fat burning and heat generation.”

More than 90% of the human body’s fat deposits are white fat, which is stored in the abdomen, bottom and upper thighs, the study shares.

Cold temperatures applied to mice was found to increase vitamin A production, which resulted in higher fat burning. 

Cold temperatures applied to mice was found to increase vitamin A production, which resulted in higher fat burning. 
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According to the findings, cold temperatures increased vitamin A levels, which helps convert white to brown fat, thus stimulating fat burning. Vitamin A reserves are mostly stored in the liver. Once cold was applied to the mice in the study, the increases in “the levels of vitamin A and its blood transporter, retinol-binding protein” led to a higher rate of fat burning as the white fat converted to brown as the body attempting to keep itself warm.

Alternatively, when “the vitamin A transporter ‘retinol-binding protein’” was blocked in mice, the fat did not “brown” and the mice were unable to protect themselves from the cold.

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The study is promising in finding solutions to dealing with weight gain and obesity. Though the study’s lead researcher, Florian Kiefer from the Medical University of Vienna, cautioned against taking large quantities of vitamin A supplements in an effort to lose weight.

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“Our results show that vitamin A plays an important role in the function of adipose tissue and affects global energy metabolism. However, this is not an argument for consuming large amounts of vitamin A supplements if not prescribed, because it is critical that vitamin A is transported to the right cells at the right time,” explains the MedUni Vienna researcher. “We have discovered a new mechanism by which vitamin A regulates lipid combustion and heat generation in cold conditions. This could help us to develop new therapeutic interventions that exploit this specific mechanism.”

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Florida’s falling lizards are getting used to cold winter temperatures

The lowest temperatures in a decade stunned and immobilized the lizards, causing them to lose their grip from their usually safe perches in trees.

Comatose lizards littering the sidewalk might have been annoying for residents. For scientists, however, it was a unique opportunity to understand how the lizards, many of which aren’t native to the region, are affected by extreme climate events. It turns out these reptiles are more adaptable to extreme temperatures than the researchers had thought, they said.

“When air temperatures drop below a critical limit, lizards lose the ability to move. Most commonly, the lowest daily temperatures occur at night while many diurnal (day-active) lizards are asleep,” lead study author and biologist James Stroud, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, told CNN.

“As many diurnal lizards typically sleep above the ground, perched safely in and among leaves and branches, they may lose their grip if temperatures drop below this critical functioning limit.”

The January cold snap wasn’t the first time Floridians have faced lizards dropping out of trees. It can happen anytime the temperature gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stroud and his collaborators in late January and early February collected 63 lizards from six different species around Miami, five of which were tropical species and not native to southern Florida.

The researchers took the lizards back to the lab at the University of Miami and individually cooled the animals until each one was too cold to respond to a gentle prod on its back limb.

“At this point, the lizard was removed from the cooler and the internal body temperature of the lizard was recorded as its lower temperature limit,” Stroud said.

“Lizards were then allowed to return to room temperature; every single lizard in this study recovered back to full health after just a few minutes.”

The team repeated this 10 weeks later to rule out a very quick, individual-level response.

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The scientists were then able to compare the temperatures to earlier data they had gathered in 2016 for a study that forecasted how far north the non-native lizards could potentially disperse to from where they were first introduced in Miami, south Florida.

The lizard community, the researchers discovered, had responded in an unexpected way to the cold snap: All of them could withstand cold temperatures down to about 42 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of their previous ability to tolerate cold.

Central American brown basilisks (Basiliscus vittatus) are among the members of a lizard community that converged on a lower temperature tolerance after a cold snap in Miami.

“A major unexpected result of this study was that all species converged on the same new, lower level of thermal tolerance,” Stroud said.

“While there was great variation in temperature tolerance before the cold event — some, like the large-bodied brown basilisk, were very intolerant of low temperatures, while others like the Puerto Rican crested anole were more robust — we observed that all species could now tolerate, on average, the same lowest temperature.”

Stroud said from this study, which published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters, it wasn’t clear whether the lizards were adapting to the lower temperatures in a way

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