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Science-LiveIamA NASA scientist. I invented an ice vest that burns calories just by wearing it, while you sit on your butt. For some reason people find the SECOND part hard to believe. AMA!

Apr 19th 2017 by waynehayes • 56 Questions • 292 Points

I'm Canadian, but now live in California. I'm a professor at the University of California in Irvine, and I also work part-time at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. My research involves using computers in scientific ways, studying everything from galaxies, to cells (the biological kind, not mobile phones), to melting ice in Antarctica. In 2013 I also started The Cold Shoulder, a company that sells an ice vest that comfortably burns calories while you sit on your butt wearing it. It's real, it works, it's based on 50 years of science, but most people find it hard to believe you can burn excess calories sitting on your butt.

Here's a photo of me and my NASA badge. I'll start answering questions about 6:45pm (Pacific) 9:45pm (Eastern). https://www.dropbox.com/s/h6uwhj8obceqmis/2017-04-18%2018.02.18.jpg?dl=0

Q:

Does this affect the ratio of brown fat cells to white fat cells?

A:

Yes! Mild cold exposure can stimulate the conversion of white fat cells to brown fat. You've been doing your homework. :-)


Q:

Interesting. So different than how the body treats red muscle vs white muscle?

A:

Hmm. I've never heard of red and white muscle. I'll look that up after this AMA.


Q:

It's fast twitch vs slow, i.e. sprinting vs endurance. Red and white muscle ratios can't be changed; however, some studies show the nervous systems response can be. (very important for athletes). I understand a higher ratio of brown fat cells is healthier IIRC.

A:

Oh right! Yes, I've heard of the twitch speed muscles vs not. But only heard. I don't know much about it.

Yes, more brown fat means less white fat. Which is a good thing.


Q:

I can burn calories no matter what? Just how cold is this ice vest?

Follow-up question: what is the 50 years of science? (Edit:) If you mean shivering burns calories, I'd think the science would be older than 50 years, no?

A:

If you have a heartbeat, you're always burning calories. :-) This vest helps you burn more calories. The ice we use, and the fabric around it, are used therapeutically. It's not uncomfortably cold. We call it "mild cold". It comes out of your freezer, but the fabric around it protects your skin from damage.

Yes, people have known about cold causing excess calorie burn for more than 50 years. :-) But it's been studied formally in the lab since about 1960.


Q:

How long does it stay cold, given a person of normal body temp on, say, a 75 degree day?

Also, does it come with its own freezer? I'm not moving my steaks out of the way for a giant vest.

A:

It stays cold about 2-4 hours depending on environment. Water ice melts in less than an hour.

No you need your own freezer. :-) It's not a GIANT vest, though. :-)


Q:

Lol this is a no brainer. It takes calories to stay warm on cold days.

A:

Thank-you! Now if only the average web browsing person would spend that much thought, I'd be a millionaire by now. :-)


Q:

edit: How many calories are we talking about?

A:

Our informal clinical tests show about 1-2 pounds of fat lost per week, all else being equal. This corresponds to about 500-1,000 calories (technically, kcal) per day. There are metabolic changes to your body that make it hard (or misleading) to directly measure calories burned. But since fat loss is what we're all most concerned about, that's the value we actually measure.


Q:

Informal clinical test? Misleading data?

How was this study designed? How many were enrolled? What was measured?

As a scientist, why don't you published a peer reviewed study?

A:

As I said elsewhere: The vest needs a clinical trial in order to have a peer-reviewed publication on it, and clinical trials cost about $100k. We don't have that cash lying around. The only way to have another academic do a clinical trial on a product pro-bono is if they think it's bogus; then they have an incentive to prove it wrong, for the public good. Problem is, everybody clinician I've talked to says, "Duh, of course it'll work. Why would I spend my hard-earned grant money to prove your product works? If you want me to do that, you'll need to pay for the trial." Kind of a catch-22 really.

You can read about our informal trial here: http://1800icevest.com/InfoSheet.pdf


Q:

[deleted]

A:

It's available now on 1800IceVest.com. The problem is getting the word out.


Q:

Does the vest have a size limit and would it work better on fatter people?

A:

We have a one-size-fits-all that should fit chests up to about 65 inches. We also have a fitted one that goes to about 60 inches. See http://1800IceVest.com.


Q:

FYI your site looks about as much like a scam as it could look without actually being one. Actually there are some real scam sites that look more legit. Seriously, get someone to make you a clean, professional site. Personally I would never, ever buy from a site like that. The "three easy payments of $49.99!" the crossed out $199, the super cliche marketing bullet points, it all just screams mid-90s scam. It really doesn't inspire confidence in buyers.

A:

In fact we've been told that many times, and I agree. But our marketing folks love it and say it'll convert. You and I are probably not indicative of the average web populace. Still... we are testing several new (and old) sites:

Here's the site I had before I had marketers get involved: http://ColdShoulderWeightLoss.com

Here's a newer one we just launched: http://TryIceVest.com

And here's a new site that we haven't finished developing yet---you can't even purchase yet: http://ColdShoulder.wpengine.com

Which do you prefer?


Q:

As a NASA Scientist, what do you feel is the most important meal of the day?

A:

Breakfast --- skip it! Lots of research has shown that intermittent fasting is healthy for you. The simplest form of it is to skip breakfast.


Q:

SKIP BREAKFAST?! Really? But isn't your body tired and hungry after a whole night of sleeping?

A:

Yup. Skip breakfast. That whole thing about "Breakfast being the most important meal of the day"? Complete BS. Never backed up by science. Many Europeans do this. Also, ancient Greeks pondered whether it was necessary to eat "twice a day, or if once was enough".


Q:

Citation? Because that's pretty much the exact opposite of everything I've ever heard from anyone.

A:

Go to Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) and search on "intermittent fasting benefits". There are tons of hits. Here's a few

https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-11-98 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0002934394903026 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/4/981.short

Probably the best popular video is the BBC Documentary "Eat, Fast, Live Longer". Search for it on YouTube.


Q:

Whats the most unbelievable piece of government technology that you have ever seen?

A:

Saturn V? Moon lander?

I actually mean "unbelievable" in the "holy shit, we really did that? AMAZING!" category. If you're talking conspiracy theories, I don't keep up with those. There are too many.


Q:

There's too many conspiracy theory technologies that you've seen? I knew it! The magic bullet is real.

A:

No, as in too many crazy conspiracy theories that even if one of them was real, it's difficult to tell the signal from the noise.


Q:

Are the calories spent just to keep you warm?

A:

Yes. Basically we cool you just enough to stimulate your metabolism; shivering would be uncomfortable so we try to avoid that level of cold.


Q:

How long do you think it would take for this type of technology to become mainstream?

I would imagine that it would need to be made cost effective as well. How much does this vest cost now?

If Dippin' Dots is any indicator, this vest will never get cheaper.

A:

I think mild cold exposure is the third pillar of a healthy lifestyle, after diet + exercise. I think a decade from now this will be common knowledge.

The vest currently retails for $150, and the majority of the cost is the medical grade ice + fabric we use to ensure it's safe on the skin. There are cheaper alternatives, but they either don't last long enough, or can be dangerous.


Q:

What would be an example of a cheaper alt?

A:

You could swim more. Swimming even in a heated pool (say at 70F) can stimulate more calorie burn. Or try this: sit neck-deep in a pool but do NOT swim. Even at 70F you'll start shivering within 10-15 minutes. Or walk around without a sweater in 50-60F weather.


Q:

Question: what's the best way to do this in a dry environment without getting winter itch (aka without doing out your skin)?

A:

One of my other NASA colleagues, Ray Cronise, has a saying: "gloves before sweater makes you look better!" Tongue-in-cheek, really, but the idea is that you want to keep your extremeties warm: ears, hands, feet. I can go jogging in sub-freezing temperature in shorts and a T-shirt as long as it's not windy, and I wear ear muffs and gloves.


Q:

Have you thought about bringing your vest on the TV show "Shark Tank"? If not what about getting funding from Silicon valley or celebrities?

A:

Yes. They weren't interested. Also a couple other similar shows.


Q:

What kind of hours do you work? How much of your life do you have to dedicate to your job? Is it as hard as it's made out to be?

A:

Yes, being a scientist is pretty much a 60-80 hour / week job. You must love a job to spend this much time on it. I love it, and would hate working 60-80 hours a week on something I don't love.

And now that I also run a company and have a 18-month-old-baby... I hardly have time to sleep. :-)

Hard but very very rewarding. All of it.


Q:

Given your claims, why aren't northerners skinnier than the rest of the population? I mean, they surely have a benefit from winter that should be measurable.

A:

That's an excellent question. The problem is you need to control for all the relevant variables like diet, exercise, cultural disposition to get out... When you do control for all those variables, there is an observable difference between people in cool climates vs. warm ones. The best example is Switzerland (colder, specifically the German part) vs Germany (warmer). They have almost identical lifestyles, diet, and everything else. But the Swiss tend to be thinner on average. It's the cold.

Same thing can be seen in the US, albeit it's harder to see because so many other things vary between states. Texans tend to be heavier than New Yorkers, but is that diet? Exercise? It's hard to disentangle all those issues but people have tried, and there are differences in weight between colder and warmer climates.


Q:

I think then, it still comes down to diet. Increasing metabolism won't help if you respond with increased consumption.

A:

Yes, diet is the most important aspect. I won't lie to you about that. This is about burning extra calories, while you're not in the gym.

Extreme cold will increase your appetite and would thus not help. We aim for mild cold, below the level that would make you hungrier. And our trials show that we've aimed just about right. Without even trying, most of our users lose fat in the long run while wearing our vest.


Q:

Where can I get this vest? I live in the studio city area, can I please be a test subject?

A:

We're actually already selling it on 1800IceVest.com. Sales are slow though since most people don't think it's real.


Q:

So what's the difference between your cold vest and me just strapping cold packs to myself?

A:

Nothing, technically. But I'll bet my vest will last longer --- both the vest design + manufacturing, plus our ice lasts 2-4 hours. Your water packs won't last as long or be as comfortable.

It's like saying, "Why should I buy a suit when I could just wear this bed sheet like a toga?" Convenience.


Q:

Not to sound antagonistic but could you get these same effects by drinking cold water?

A:

Yes, but you'd need to drink a lot. Plus most of the calorie burn comes from melting the ice in our vest. Melting 1 lb of ice takes a lot more energy than heating it from just above freezing, up to your body temperature. You'd need to eat several pounds of ice to get the same effect. Not good for your teeth...

And no, you won't get the same effect eating a pound of ice cream. :-)


Q:

On average, how long do you need to wear the vest to see real results?

A:

Our informal clinical tests have shown users losing 1-2 pounds per week over a 2 week period. Some more, some less. One guy lost 15 pounds over 2 weeks... but he had a lot to lose starting at over 300.


Q:

But also, I think the question is, how many hours out of the day?

A:

We recommend wearing it twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening, for 1-2 hours each. But in terms of how much time it actually takes out of your day... it's about 1-2 minutes total. How long does it take to open the freezer, don the vest? About 30 seconds. Same for taking it off. Twice a day = 4 x 30s = 2 minutes.


Q:

Will you send me a sample vest?

A:

Depends. Do you have a big blog with lots of followers? The vest is a business, after all. We do give away vests but only if there's a chance that it'll generate more sales than the cost of the vest.


Q:

What does the best look like? Also, what would your most important contribution to humanity be?

A:

You can see the vest (2 versions) at 1800IceVest.com.

But my most important contribution to humanity? I educate about 500 students a year in my professor job; and I'm working on cutting-edge research that I hope will have enduring value. Everything from medical research (no, not the ice vest, other people do that reserach) to climate research.


Q:

Are there any negative side effects?

A:

You may get goose bumps. Nothing actually harmful that we can imagine. The fabric is designed to shield your skin from the extreme cold.


Q:

What's prevented you from making ice underwear?

A:

We actually considered that for April Fool's. We had the Chilly Willy(tm) and the Nippy Nips bra.


Q:

Do you attend UCI Anteaters Sports games? If so which sports? How many per school year?

A:

No, unfortunately not. What with teaching, research, grading, running a company, and a newborn baby.. I barely have time to sleep.


Q:

Where did you go to college/University? What did you major in?

A:

University of Toronto. I did a double-specialist in astrophysics and computer science, then a Master's in computational physics, then Ph.D. in applied computational mathematics. Which is all a fancy way of saying I use computers to model and analyze real-world data.


Q:

Is NASA in danger of losing funding? If so, who are the best people to call and write to express concern?

A:

Well, it seems the new administration is keen on funding space-based exploration, which is great. But they're also keen to de-fund anything based on climate research. Which sucks. Like, really really sucks. NASA has the space-based knowledge to observe not only outwards, but down from orbit. Nobody else has the expertise there. So it's unfortunate POTUS wants to de-fund NASA's climate research.


Q:

What's the warranty on the vest?

A:

30 days no-questions-asked, 90 days manufacturer. But honestly I've replaced broken vests up to a year. We're pretty informal and take customer satisfaction seriously.


Q:

Where in Canada did you grow up?

A:

Toronto.


Q:

Who were your science role models as a kid?

A:

Einstein. Richard Feynmann. Carl Sagan. More the latter---I was wowed by COSMOS. I know Neil Degrass Tyson (sp?) recently re-did it and I've heard he did a good job but I haven't had a chance.


Q:

The COSMOS companion book written by Sagan changed my life in billions and billions of ways.

A:

Me too. :-)


Q:

As a kid did you have a microscope, telescope, mini chemistry lab and all sorts of scientific toys?

A:

I had a store-bought microscope, and I made my own telescope when I was a teenager. I ground my own mirror and went to a paper manufacting plant to get a big cylindrical roll (basically a HUGE toilet paper roll center) for the tube. It was a 4" reflector.


Q:

Do you do any writing for books or magazines? If which ones?

A:

No, but I've had stuff written about me---both about my academic research, and about the vest.


Q:

What are your favorite subreddits?

A:

Science ones.


Q:

What are best science shows currently airing on TV channels?

A:

Sadly I have no TV. None. I like Big Bang Theory---I have the DVDs.


Q:

Do you use any Supercomputers? If so what is the computer called? How does it work? How big is it? What all does it do?

A:

Yes, I use some of the computer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The COMET cluster. Also sometimes the NASA/JPL Pleiades cluster for climate research. Just google them to find sizes. I think the Pleiades cluster has about a quarter million cores.


Q:

Favorite Candy Bar?

A:

Milky Way, of course.


Q:

Favorite Pizza toppings?

A:

ANSI standard Pizza is pepperoni, mushroom, green peppers.


Q:

Why no onion?

A:

Blech. Reduces the chances of being kissed afterwards.


Q:

Best fast food burger?

A:

In-n-out.


Q:

Do you ship the vests outside of the US? To the UK for example

A:

Yup. Worldwide.


Q:

What do you wear under the vest? I have a hard time believing it can burn 500-1000 calories a day from wearing it twice for 1-2 hrs. Can you share studies to back up your assertion?

A:

Just a T-shirt. You could wear nothing under it too, the fabric is just thick enough to protect your skin from frostbite.

We have more explanation and backup info at http://1800icevest.com/science. Also check out our book at http://1800icevest.com/ColdWarOnFat.pdf


Q:

Do those freeze fat cell treatments celebrities do actually work then?

A:

Yes, but that's something else entirely. You need to visit a doctor's office several times for that---only performed under medical supervision, etc. It's basically liposuction without the suction. In other words... you can get fat again if you don't change your lifestyle after it's done.

We're talking about burning calories outside the gym, while sitting on your butt.


Q:

Do you ship to Canada ?

A:

Of course. I'm from Toronto. Hey, you could probably just leave the vest outside overnight, right? :-)


Q:

Doesn't/wouldn't a hypothermic state slow your metabolic rate thus leading to less calories being burned?

A:

Hypothermia is caused by extreme cold. We're dosing extremely mild cold. Not even shiver level. Goose bump level. That's enough to burn excess calories with no uncomfortable or dangerous side effects.


Q:

In a hypothetical situation where we can actually colonise and travel between other planets, how do you personally believe we should go about administrating them? For example do we leave the planet to form its own form of autonomous government, or would it be time for the UN to step in and take control? Do begin to draw borders in space?

A:

Currently space is considered international and borderless. I have no idea how it would work, but there are plenty of really good science fiction novels that address those issues in interesting ways. One of my favorites in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Highly recommended.


Q:

So, could I wear say... a sweater OVER the vest? Or would that defeat the purpose?

A:

Sweater over the vest would probably be OK. It may reduce the effect a bit, but a T-shirt under the vest (or nothing) and sweater over should be fine.

I'll bet that after a week you'd be "cured" of feeling cold, though, and would be perfectly happy wearing it without the sweater.