Danish researchers to test whether winter bathing can burn fat

Researchers are to test whether bathing naked in extremely cold winter water, a popular practice in Denmark and elsewhere in Scandinavia, can result in a loss of weight.

Danish researchers to test whether winter bathing can burn fat
Winter bathing: cold. File photo: Morten Stricker/Ritzau Scanpix

The popular health pursuit of winter bathing, which is known to trigger a sense of well-being, may also result in loss of weight.

That hypothesis is to be tested in a study at the Centre for Physical Activity at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

In the study, the first of its kind in the world, 30 clinically overweight men and women have volunteered to help find out whether the cold shock resultant from winter bathing increases energy consumption.

Researcher Susanna Søberg, who is part of the team conducting the study, said that the work aimed to show whether winter bathing can activate the body’s brown fat cells.

Unlike normal white fat, which stores calories, brown fat cells burn energy, producing heat.

“Brown fat can be thought of as a small factory inside the body. If you can switch it on, it will use sugar and fat from the blood stream, thereby breaking down white fat,” Søborg said to Ritzau.

Beginning at the end of this month, 15 of the volunteers in the study will winter bathe regularly, while the remaining 15 will act as a control group.

All participants will wear a heart monitor and keep a log of their daily activities.

The bathing group will winter bathe three times per week at the Helgoland public baths in Amager, south Copenhagen.

They will be required to jump into cold water three times and can choose to enter a sauna between dips, as is common practice for winter bathers.

Brown fat was discovered in the 1980s, but its potential for assisting weight loss was only recently demonstrated by scientists.

The research could bring about useful results in finding new ways to activate brown fat, which could in turn provide the basis for new treatments – not just in countries with a climate that enables winter bathing in cold temperatures.

“If we can find pointers in brown fat, perhaps it might be possible to develop a medical treatment for obesity,” Søberg said.

READ ALSO: Danish children: Low obesity rate but a lot of time alone


New Year’s Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark

The number of people treated for fireworks-related injuries on New Year's Eve in Denmark has bounced back to normal levels, with 16 people treated for eye injuries after the celebrations.

New Year's Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark
Fireworks led to 16 eye injuries on New Year's Eve. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

This is up from the unusually low 12 people who were treated for eye injuries during and after the celebrations last year. Two of this year’s injuries are sufficiently severe that the injured are expected to lose their sight completely or partially.

“After a very quiet evening last year, it is back to a normal, average level,” Ulrik Correll Christensen, head doctor at the ophthalmology department at Rigshospitalet, told the country’s Ritzau newswire. “It is a completely extraordinary situation at the eye departments on New Year’s Eve. It is not at all something we see on a daily basis.” 

Christensen has tallied up reports from all of Denmark’s eye units, including the major ones in Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Næstved. 

He said that 15 out of the 16 cases had not worn safety goggles, two thirds were between ten and thirty years old. 

“The most important thing is to follow the advice when firing fireworks. Wear safety goggles and keep a good distance,” he said. 

The number of ambulance call outs on New Year’s Eve is also back to normal, with 1,188 emergency vehicles sent out, compared to 875 last year. 

In the Capital Region of Copenhagen, there were 44 call-outs were related to fireworks, of which 16 were for hand injuries and 14 for eye injuries.