Cold Exposure: Crazy or Amazing?
Are Lady Gaga, Floyd Mayweather and Wim Hof crazy?
All of them expose themselves to significant cold on purpose. I’m been experimenting with ice baths and cold exposure for three years now. In a later post, I will share my personal experience.
For now, we will stick to the science and review a newly published paper on the topic.
The paper looked at a small group of men (27) who had a BMI of < 24.9, a BMI of 30 to 34.9, or a BMI > 35. All of them were “non-active”. They participated in 20 three minute cryo-chamber sessions at -120 C / - 248 F once a day, five days per week. That qualifies as cold in my book!
The researchers then measured a variety of parameters including blood markers of inflammation and lipid levels. TNF-alpha was one marker of inflammation that declined. (See graph below).
TNF, also known as Tumor Necrosis Factor, is a signaling molecule produced by white blood cells. It is often used as a measure of the body’s overall inflammatory status.
Lower inflammation is crucial because it is connected to a variety of life threatening disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Total cholesterol was also lower in two of the groups of men. (See graph below)
Finally, the paper found lower levels of organ fat tissue in the group of men with a BMI between 30-34.9. This is know as the visceral adiposity index or VAI.
The paper also introduced to me the concept of whole body cryostimulation. I think that is a stellar way to think of cold exposure. We are stimulating our bodies.
Vitality Explorer Analysis and Recommendations
This is a small paper (n = 27) that was conducted only on men. It is hard to derive lock down conclusions from it.
It does, however, provide evidence that cold exposure can lead to lower levels of systemic inflammation and may also reduce total cholesterol in obese men.
I think it adds to the growing body of evidence supporting cold exposure as a vitality enhancer.
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Pilch et al Biomaterials 2022
Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation. While cold therapy influences the pro/antioxidative status of an individual, by affecting adipokine levels and the lipid profile, the effect of body mass index (BMI) on the response to cold exposure is unclear. We analyzed the link between BMI and the differences in effects of whole-body stimulation, depending on the number of treatments, on specific physiological parameters in men. Twenty-seven non-active men were divided into three groups: N (n = 9, BMI < 24.9), IOb (n = 9, BMI 30.0–34.9), and IIOb (BMI ≥ 35.0). The subjects participated in 20 3-min cryochamber sessions (−120 ◦C), 1/day, 5 days/week. Body composition was analyzed before and after treatment. Blood adiponectin (ADP), leptin (LEP), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) levels, and the lipid profile were analyzed three times: at baseline and up to 2 h after 10 and 20 sessions. The 20 treatments caused significant changes in body composition. Between 10 and 20 whole-body cryostimulation (WBC) sessions, a significant decreased was observed in the LEP and TNF-alpha levels. No significant changes in the lipid profile were noted. However, a positive tendency to regain the metabolic balance in adipose tissue was apparent in the IOb group in the tested period (decreased TG levels, increased HDL levels or the HDL/LDL ratio, and significantly decreased visceral adiposity index levels). Collectively, for people with obesity increasing the number of treatments above the standard 10 should be recommended.