A Virus Can Make You Skinny

Emily Blunt at the premiere for "The Devil Wears Prada"

In the movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Emily Blunt famously utters the line, "I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight." She might have been onto something. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have been working with a virus to suppress an amino acid called neuropeptide Y (NPY).  NPY is believed to control appetite; if you can inhibit it (through a virus), you'll suppress your hunger signals and lose weight.  Turns out there's a surprise benefit as well.  You turn the usual white fat cells which simply store energy into calorie-burning brown fat cells. In other words, if you get sick with a certain virus, you'll not only suppress your appetite but you'll also burn more calories resulting in weight loss.  Researchers hope this will turn into some sort of drug therapy program they can administer to help fight obesity.  They are NOT suggesting you inject yourself with a virus! I've talked about brown adipose tissue before.  Babies are borns with tons of it, which helps to keep them warm as their little bodies grow.  But as we age, the brown cells all but disappear from our body. Is there some takeaway we can use now from this research?  Maybe ... Tim Ferriss of "Four-Hour Body" fame believes he's found the answer to reactivating brown adipose tissue: ice.  He recommends icing your chest and upper back where the remaining brown adipose tissue is likely to be in your body.  He believes by cooling the fat cells they react by "turning on" and burning calories.  He also recommends 20 minute ice baths if you're into self-inflicted torture.  It seems to work but there is definitely a price to pay for it. Does this make me secretly hope I'll get a bad stomach bug sometime soon?  Um, no.  Will I be icing my back or chest anytime soon?  Well, I did it for 30 days back when I did the Four-Hour Body plan and I honestly don't know if it did anything or not, although to my surprise, Dr. Oz vetted the science and backed it up. There are lots of ways to lose weight.  I've struggled a bit with my weight the last year or so ... I've come to realize that finding a good steady balanced diet and regular exercise plan will eventually bring you to the weight you're meant to be.   I know it's not rocket science, but I'm gonna stick with that.  What do you think? Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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3 Responses to A Virus Can Make You Skinny

  1. Kristi Hines May 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    The flu will definitely do it. I’ve noticed that after I get a stomach virus, I drop around 5 – 7 pounds during the day or two I can’t eat anything and “expel” what I’ve eaten recently. Then there’s usually another few days where I’m not that hungry at all. I thought the latter had more to do with the fact that your stomach gets used to being empty and you almost have to train it to be full again. If they can find a good way to not make you want to starve to death, but not want to go overboard eating that mimics the days after, then that could be a good treatment. Hopefully safe and natural though.

  2. Lisa Johnson May 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Kristi, I know what you mean on safe! Last thing we need is to inject ourselves with the flu! I totally notice the weight loss when I’ve had a virus too and now I’m wondering how much of it was being sick and how much of it could have been a particular strain that shut down the NPY. Who knows? It’ll be interesting to see what the researchers come out with in a few more years. Lots of testing still to be done. Thanks for stopping by, I’m a big fan of your blog!

  3. Tara Burner May 13, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    I can sadly see people trying to get a virus, just like the people who purposely get tape worms to lose weight!
    Should be interesting to see what research discovers.
    and I won’t be icing myself down, that’s too much torture! I’ll stick to eating healthy and working out more! :)

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