Body & Fitness

Socialising to lose weight

Did you know all body fat is not equal? That there is a type that can help you lose weight rather than gain it? Now scientists think your social life could be the key to building up this fabulous fat.

Here’s some good news: If you’re trying to lose weight you may be better off arranging to hang out with friends than joining a gym.

According to a recent study by US researchers, socialising helps to boost levels of a type of body fat that burns calories rather than storing them.

The researchers found mice living in a stimulating social environment lost about half their abdominal fat in four weeks, even when they ate more than those that had no stimulation. The theory is that being sociable triggers the release of a brain chemical that can increase the body’s levels of energy-burning brown fat.

Scientists have known for several years this type of fat can help us to lose weight, unlike white fat, which stores calories and makes us pile on the kilos.

However, seeing evidence of the connection between social stimulation and the effect it can have on the body’s levels of brown fat has come as a big surprise to the researchers.

The scientist in charge of the ohio State University study, Dr Matthew During, says he’s amazed at the amount of fat loss that occurred in the mice trial – about 50%.

“The amount that comes off is far more than you would get with a treadmill,” he says.

The results may be more evidence of a link between loneliness and health problems.

Lei Cao, who coauthored the study with Dr During, explains, “Loneliness is a profound factor for cancer and death.”

Brown & white fat

Brown fat is a good fat which functions differently to the white fat that is the bane of so many people’s lives. Unlike white fat, which stores surplus energy, brown fat burns energy.

It does this to generate heat, which is why brown fat is mostly found in newborn babies – it helps them to regulate their body temperature.

As children get older their bodies get better at keeping their core temperature under control, so the levels of brown fat begin to decline and are often replaced by white fat.

Scientists previously thought adults lost all their brown fat once they’d got past childhood. Now Swedish researchers have found healthy adults do retain some of it in their necks. They also found people who are slim tend to have more of it.

It’s all very well having brown fat in your body, but switching it on to do its job of burning energy is tricky.

one thing which may activate it or prompt your body to start producing it is the cold. If you’re feeling very chilly your body may convert white fat into brown in order to generate heat and warm you up.

However, a lot more research needs to be done to find out if weight-loss really could beas easy as turning off the heater, or spending time with friends.

Health watch

  • Pregnant women who take painkillers such as ibuprofen are more than twice as likely to suffer a miscarriage, according to a new study. A group of researchers in Canada have found mums-to-be who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs from just before conception up until the 20th week of pregnancy double their risk of losing the baby. Although there are clear warnings on the packets about not using them while pregnant, many women still take them. Aspirin wasn’t tested, while paracetamol was deemed safe to use.

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