These clothes cool your body to trick you into burning fat — or at least they’re supposed to

People struggling with their weight make easy targets for scams. Fat-busting pills, fad diets, and workout gadgets come and go as their popularity is overwhelmed by their ineffectiveness. Now a line of clothing purportedly tricks your body into losing weight by “hacking your metabolism” — but are the only hacks here those selling the phony technology?

“This would be too uncomfortable to tolerate for the many, many months of wearing Thin Ice that would be required to produce any significant weight loss.”

The Thin Ice Weight Loss Clothing Line, recently backed on Indiegogo by more than half a million dollars, is designed to trick your body into thinking you’re cold and burning fat to keep you warm. The team behind Thin Ice is kicking off the line with two items to target areas of your body with a lot of thermoreceptors (nerves that detect temperature changes). The first is a tank top, dubbed a “vest.” The second is a pair of insoles. Peltier cooling strips (used to cool compact electronics) and the rechargeable battery that powers them are built in. Both garments connect to the Thin Ice Android or iOS app using Bluetooth Low Energy so you can see how many calories you’ve burned and control the temperature.

Turn the temp down and watch the weight fall off, the company claims.

And don’t worry, you won’t freeze to death: Even if you turn the temp as low as it will go, the company says you won’t end up shivering. The cooling mechanism targets specific parts of your body to trick your nervous system and avoid triggering the shiver response. The science is explained in depth in Scientific American and the New England Journal of Medicineamong others. In short, cold triggers your brown adipose tissue (BAT) to consume lipids (A.K.A. fat) to produce heat, and Thin Ice is designed to affect that consumption without chilling you enough to cause muscle spasms (shivering).

Weight-loss facts and figures

It all sounds very clever, as does Adam Paulin, the creator of Thin Ice Clothing — an NCAA athlete who holds degrees in neurology and psychology from the University of Toronto. But is it real? One backer questioned Adam, asserting on the company’s Indiegogo page that research says the temperature range required for thermogenesis — the process of internal heat production that burns fat — is lower than what the clothes can achieve. Adam’s response was simply to assert there were studies saying the opposite. (Paulin did not respond to multiple emails from Digital Trends.)

That’s the thing about emerging technologies: If you want to be an early adopter, it helps to do your own research. Some backers may have not have read the New England Journal of Medicine study listed on Thin Ice’s Indiegogo page thoroughly enough. Consider the statement of conclusion in that paper, which notes that “mean brown-adipose-tissue activity was significantly lower in the overweight or obese subjects than in the lean subjects.” This means that the heavier you are, the less effective cold therapy may be for you.

Thin-Ice-Weight-Loss-002

Digital Trends reached out to Shaun Morrison, a member of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Oregon Health and Science University for his thoughts. Morrison was skeptical, to say the least. “The BAT in overweight and obese humans cannot be activated by cooling,” he wrote to us. “Thus, the ThinIce approach is not expected to activate the BAT in overweight people and thus isn’t expected to produce weight loss in overweight people.”

Dr. Morrison would know. He’s currently running a study on central inhibitory regulation of brown adipose thermogenesis, and has studied the central regulation of sympathetic activity to brown fat in previous work. While he said there was hope for people with a normal body mass index, he pointed out that over time even their Thin Ice results might suffer.

“Although skin blood flow should be reduced in the areas of the Thin Ice stimulation, the normal level of heat production from the basic metabolic processes in the body of an adult human could produce a subcutaneous temperature that would counteract a mild cooling from the ThinIce outside the skin, resulting in little stimulation of cool thermoreceptors, and little activation of BAT.” After a while, the body would simply adjust to counteract mild external cooling.

“This phenomenon could require that the ThinIce product must produce a greater level of skin cooling to get BAT activation, and, at some point, this would be too uncomfortable to tolerate for the many, many months of wearing Thin Ice that would be required to produce any significant weight loss.”

Maybe some backers did read the studies attached to the Indiegogo page and are aware that no one can lose weight with cold alone. To be fair, the Thin Ice app also suggests meals and workouts to “supercharge” weight loss. However, Dr. Morrison went on to point out that over time wearing cooling clothes might change your metabolism, making you feel hungrier.

“I would be concerned that if BAT were continuously activated (even at some low level) and energy stored in fat were consumed by BAT to produce heat, the brain circuits regulating metabolism would sense this sustained energy consumption and attempt to reinstate the energy stores in fat by increasing food consumption, thereby eliminating any weight loss effect of the BAT activation.” So Thin Ice might turn the little rumble in a dieter’s stomach into a gnawing gurgle of emptiness.

Coming soon to a store near you?

On the other hand, maybe backers haven’t really paid attention at all. Based on funding alone, it appears backers are all in, regardless of Thin Ice’s actual effectiveness. The Thin Ice Weight Loss campaign was 3,786 percent funded as of September 17. People grabbed shirts and insoles for $100, saving 35 percent off the projected retail. Who wouldn’t want a shortcut to weight loss? Besides, some people readily spend this amount on workout gear, so it’s not a totally ridiculous ask for a smart shirt that connects to an app.

Unfortunately, there are limitations on this gear you don’t normally see on garment tag. For instance, you can’t run Think Ice through the washer (the company recommends using antibiotic wipes for regular cleanings). And the insoles aren’t for high-impact activities like running or basketball, but more to keep you cool during your daily errands.

It’s possible consumers wearing those insoles won’t be the only ones with cold feet. The company just missed its December shipping deadline, which is still listed on the Indiegogo site. An update on the site explains: “In our last email update in November, we told you that we were looking forward to shipping your Thin Ice weight loss product in the spring. We are happy and excited to tell you that we remain on target.”

Will it ship in the Spring? Like a foodie after Thanksgiving, the wait is still on.

Deals

Tom Brady uses these high-tech sheets for muscle pain, and they’re on sale now

Under Armour Recovery Sheets feature unique technologies that can speed your body’s post-workout healing process, and they’re on sale right now at discounts of up to $87. Read on to find out how these innovative sheets work (and how you…
Computing

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

The Surface Go vs. Surface Pro — which is better? While the higher price tag of one might make you think it's an easy choice, a deeper dive into what each offers makes it a closer race than you might assume.
Outdoors

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Outdoors

These wireless earbuds use an A.I. to get you moving faster

The new Soul Blade wireless earbuds provide the ability to track your heart rate during a workout while an A.I.-powered coach gives advice and info on how to improve form and efficiency while exercising.
Deals

Under Armour drops prices on Gore-Tex Jackets, Pants, and backpacks

The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on right now through Monday, February 18. During this time, you can get up to 40 percent off a huge range of outlet items, including Gore-Tex rain gear.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Deals

This Bowflex secret sale can save you over $1K on high-tech fitness equipment

With advances in technology, taking control of your fitness has become easier than ever, and with this huge discount on the Bowflex Max Trainer M7, it's affordable, too. Save more than $1,000 on a new fitness machine with this promo code.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Gaming

Did Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown fall victim to the Madden Curse?

Join us as we take a tour through the long-running history of the Madden Curse -- and Tom Brady's recent accolades. We all know John Madden is a longtime NFL talent, but is he also an agent of dark forces?