If you were to look at the Amazon.com best- selling Kindle Books list, you'd find Six Weeks to OMG atop many of the health, fitness and dieting lists. Of course, everyone wants to be skinnier – and in six weeks – but one has to ask how this is possible. What does this book offer that others have not? We all know that a combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight, but many of us also want to know some short cuts.
In an appearance on the Today show, author Venice A. Fulton – real name Paul Khanna, a British actor and personal trainer who holds a degree in sports science – described some of the tricks: skip breakfast, drink two cups of black coffee on an empty stomach and take a 15-minute cold bath every day.
What does a cold bath have to do with weight loss?
Khanna, in his TV appearance, claimed, "When your body gets in a cold bath – it hates that – it ramps up metabolism to keep you warm. Just like turning up the thermostat, those calories have to be from somewhere." He said that his book, and this tactic specifically, is for people who want to lose fat. By this logic, the body is forced to keep warm and burns fat in the process. He claims that a 15-minute bath in 68 or 59 degree water should suffice.
[QUIZ: How many calories are in that?]
When accused to using "junk science," Khanna said the cold bath theory was supported by research from the New England Journal of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic.
What does the New England Journal of Medicine say?
In truth, Khanna has contorted the research a bit. The NEJM published a study in April 2009 that analyzed how healthy, overweight and obese men reacted to cold temperatures. Specifically, the research identified that "brown fat" – which is responsible for regulating body temperature and different from the fat responsible for weight gain and calorie storage – was burned when the body was in cold temperatures. Though fat was burned, burning brown fat doesn't really help reduce your gut. In fact, brown fat is often stored in the upper chest region of men – not normally a target for weight loss efforts.
However, this study did find that the overweight and obese men generally had less activity in their brown fat – less was burned to keep warm – indicating that cold temperatures could be a means for reducing their weight.
Does a cold bath boost metabolism?
There may also be some basis for the idea of using cold temperatures to boost metabolism. Research from Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care found that those who showed a low metabolic response to cold had a higher propensity toward obesity. Though not necessarily validating the claims that metabolism is boosted in lower temperatures, the study did confirm that with non-obese people, there was a metabolic change when exposed to the cold.