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Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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8 comments

How Cold Affects You- Part 1

Posted January 09, 2012 10:56 AM by Chelsey H
Pathfinder Tags: cold Health temperature winter

Ok, I'm going to be honest: I don't like the winter. Even growing up in upstate New York, I have never really learned to cope with bitter temperatures or drive in the snow. I bundle myself up until I look like a marshmallow and I still freeze as I run from my house to the car (which has already been started to warm it up!).

Image Credit: iStockphoto

But as a biomedical engineer I was thinking about the benefits and dangers of being out in the cold…maybe I've been missing the secret rewards of spending time in the cold, OR maybe I am totally justified in staying inside during the winter with a cup of something hot. I did a little research and found a significant amount of material supporting both decisions. I present them to you in two parts, so you can decide if you're going to stay in or venture outside this winter.

Yes, Cold Can Be A Good Thing

Exercise recovery- A study published in December 2011 monitored nine well-trained runners over three non-adjoining weeks as they performed exercises meant to induce muscle damage (a simulated trail run on a treadmill). Each of the athletes were then tested on one of three recovery modalities, including whole-body cryotherapy (WBC). WBC sessions were administered in a specially built, temperature controlled unit and consisted of exposure to very cold air that was maintained at -110°C to -140°C for 3-4 minutes. The athletes were given a test that consisted of extending their knee "as fast and as hard as possible." The cryotherapy recovery method had the best and fastest results, allowing the athlete to perform the full extension one hour after the workout. The main benefit of cold for muscle recovery is the vasoconstriction that limits the vessel's inflammatory processes and reduces muscle pain.

Apparently her face is frozen like that. Image Credit: Kelly West AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Shaking the blues- Studies have been done observing the effects of cold water on patients with depression. Cold exposure is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline levels in the blood and the release of noradrenaline in the brain. The high level of cold receptors in the skin causes a large amount of electrical impulses delivered from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, relieving inflammation and also resulting in an anti-depressive effect. There are several types of hydrotherapies that have demonstrated positive effects on people suffering from depression.

Good for your waist line- Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in warm-blooded animals. Cold-induced thermogenesis and diet-induced thermogenesis are related by the activation of brown adipose tissue, which serves as the thermogenic organ. Brown adipose tissue transfers energy from food to heat, and when this occurs heat is produced and metabolic efficiency is decreased. A study done in 2009 suggests that an increase in brown adipose tissue is related to energy metabolism, so the more brown adipose tissue you have the higher your metabolism is. And this tissue can be activated by cold temperatures as moderate as 61°F. Exposure to cold isn't a diet option yet…but shivering can burn around 400 calories an hour. Since your body uses a significant amount of the heat generated by cold weather exercise to warm and humidify the air you breathe in, and you tend to carry more clothing with you, more calories can be burned by exercising in colder weather.

Image Credit: citysportsblog.com

Increase energy and well-being- The first blast of cold water or gust of cold air does send an invigorating surge through your body. It's a similar principle to shaking the blues: the electrical impulses sent to the brain from the skin "wakes up" the brain to reduce stress and re-energize. Cold can also causes a spike in norepinephrine, a chemical that has been linked to pain suppression. A cold pack will usually do the trick, but cryotherapy is used to treat pain and inflammation from rheumatic and other conditions in countries like Japan. People from Finland and Russia swear by their cold water swims.

Image Credit: somi.org

So maybe a plunge in a frigid lake isn't the worst thing in the world for you (not that you'll see me doing it anytime soon) and maybe strapping sticks to your feet and hurling yourself down a mountain (also known as skiing) can have some positive effects…..but cold has its dangers too.

Next week's post will explain the dangers of cold exposure.

Resources

Is Cold Weather Good For Us?

Out in the cold

Nutrition for cold-weather exercisers

Van Marken Lichtenbelt, W. D., J. W. Vanhommerig, N. M. Smulders, J. M.A.F.L. Drossaerts, G. J. Kemerink, N. D. Bouvy, P. Schrauwen, and G.J. J. Teule. "Cold-Activated Brown Adipose Tissue in Healthy Men." New England Journal of Medicine 360.15 (2009): 1500-508. Print.

The art of Manliness- The James Bond Shower: A Shot of Cold Water for Health and Vitality

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#1

Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/09/2012 4:39 PM

When the cold gets bad, it can get worse...

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Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 1:58 AM

This is from the Department of Paramangled Science.When it says "Studies have shown...also resulting in an anti depressive effect" what the actual text of the study quoted says is "...which could result in an anti-depressive effect." In any case, the study is totally lacking in proof of this supposed effect. Indeed, the summary includes the sentence "Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively." How one derives a valid result from a test which is based on a statistically insignificant number of the wrong population will remain a mystery.

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#3
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Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 5:16 AM

Don't let the facts spoil a good story.
Lets give all the mentally ill ice cold baths and electro convulsive therapy... Oh whoops, we've moved on from there, but hey, what goes around comes around.
Del

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Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 9:02 AM

Lemme see here:

I don't have depression so the cold won't benefit me.

I'm skinny so shivering would be detrimental to my winter weight gain efforts.

And if anyone thinks I'm gonna intentionally damage muscle tissue so I can benefit from cryotherapy, then they've lost their prheaking mind!!

Soooo... I'll just stay in and enjoy that hot toddy, thank you.

Hooker

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#5

Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 9:33 AM

I just spent last week outdoors the whole day in the throws of Maine atop mountains and hills...layers, layers, layers. 2 degrees with a wind and still comfy!

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#6

Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 9:39 AM

Winter up here is the Best damn thing ever invented....... hot lingering saunas followed by a dive into the snow = BP 110/75, HR 62bpm.....no severe colds or flu (except for H1N1....that was scary) and some say it helps their fibromyalgia.

I suppose one becomes acclimatized to the climate they live in. I, for one, do not do well in hot or tropical climes.

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Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 9:43 AM

It is part of business to start blogs for quite a period; people fwd ... fwd ... fwd.

Business starts growing and the natural product ....

Next great grocery scam may already be in your pantry

and so on.

<< Adulteration

The adulteration of oil can be no more serious than passing off inferior, but safe, product as superior olive oil, but there are no guarantees. It is believed that almost 700 people died as a consequence of consuming rapeseed oil adulterated with aniline intended for use as an industrial lubricant, but sold in 1981 as olive oil in Spain (see toxic oil syndrome).>>

There are so many such scams in mass email posts.

"Ajwa Khajoor" Dates, Honey ...

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Re: How Cold Affects You- Part 1

01/10/2012 12:30 PM

I like the cold, as long as there's snow. 40's and rain sucks.

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