Health enthusiasts would sometimes wear sweatshirts while exercising to help them burn more fat. Higher temperature means that the body would sweat more, leading to burning of more calories. Surprisingly, recent research revealed a somewhat opposite concept as it stated that cold temperatures and increasing vitamin A intake actually encourages the burning of fat.
A study published in the journal Molecular Metabolism, titled, "Intact vitamin A transport is critical for cold-mediated adipose tissue browning and thermogenesis," revealed that cold temperatures can increase the levels of vitamin A in humans. This increase helps in converting "bad' white adipose tissue into good tissue that stimulates the generation of heat and burning of fat.
A group of researchers from the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the MedUni Vienna's Department of Medicine III showed how application of cold in the body can increase vitamin A levels together with the retinol-binding protein, which is responsible for transporting vitamin A in the blood. The results were seen in both mice and humans.
The liver is the organ of the body where most of the reserves of vitamin A are stored. The researchers noted that it would seem exposure to cold temperates can stimulate vitamin A redistribution to the adipose tissue, more commonly known as body fat. The increase of vitamin A in the body brought about by cold temperatures results in "browning." This refers to the process of the conversion of white fat into brown fat, which has a higher rate of fat burning.
Lead author Florian Kiefer explained that in mice, they tried to block the retinol-binding protein, the one that transports vitamin A in the blood, and they found that it also affected the increase in vitamin A and the browning process. Since these processes were weakened, the mice were also unable to adequately protect themselves against the cold season.
On the other hand, adding vitamin A to the white fat cells of humans led to the browning process. This then increased energy consumption and metabolic activity.
The researchers underscored that while their study shows the important role that vitamin A plays in terms of metabolism and fat, they do not advocate for the consumption of large amounts of vitamin A if there is no prescription. What they noted was their study opened a new way wherein the vitamin could potentially help in burning fat in cold temperatures. The study could lead to new therapeutic interventions.