New study finds cryotherapy, a form of extreme cold exposure, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol in obese patients

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A new study of 29 participants found that obese patients who received regular cryotherapy sessions had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels compared to controls.Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

  • Obese patients treated with cryotherapy saw lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, according to a new study.

  • Cryotherapy, or exposing the body to temperatures below 200 degrees, is popular among athletes.

  • Previous research suggests that cryotherapy may improve the mechanisms that help with weight loss, but it cannot by itself reduce fat.

A new study suggests that obese people may benefit from cryotherapy or exposure to extreme cold when combined with other treatments.

Exposing the body to temperatures below 200 degrees is already a popular wellness fad and sport recovery tool. Many health-conscious celebrities are fans of cryotherapy, and professional athletes also use it to treat muscle soreness.

According to new findings, this practice may also help you lose weight. In a small study of 29 obese patients by Italian researchers, those who were regularly exposed to extreme cold had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels than controls.

All study participants received care that included dietary planning, exercise training, and psychological support. The researchers then divided them into two groups. One was in the -230°F freezer for 2 minutes and the other was in the -131°C freezer for the same amount of time. Participants entered the freezer 10 times over 2 weeks.

Participants in the colder cryochamber had a 20% reduction in total cholesterol, while those in the 131-degree chamber had only a 9% reduction in total cholesterol. Participants who entered the 200-degree or lower chamber experienced a 10% reduction in blood glucose (compared with 3% in the control group) and a 6% reduction in waist circumference (compared with 1% in the control group).

Cryotherapy doesn’t appear to burn fat directly, but may indirectly support mechanisms in the body that help eliminate fat, Healthline says.

A small 2015 study of obese men found that after 10 days of daily cryotherapy sessions, some subjects had increased levels of irisin, a protein that helps convert normal fat into brown fat. turned out to be higher. Brown fat breaks down blood sugar and regular fat. This is essential for improving metabolism. On the other hand, too much normal fat causes obesity.

“Our results show that whole-body cryostimulation is beneficial for the treatment of obesity,” said Dr. Jacopo Fontana, a researcher at the Istituto Auxologico Piancavallo IRCCS, where the study was conducted, in a release. “The improvements in blood fat and blood sugar levels were particularly pronounced, but larger, longer-term studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results.”

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