It's the Middle of Winter and I'm Not Cold

    During this time of year, the cold
    weather gets to all of us.  Freezing
    rain?  People dash madly from one  
    building to another to stay dry. 
    Snow?  We bundle up and shove our
    hands deep into our pockets to
    preserve what's left of our dwindling
    body heat.  Wouldn't it be amazing
    though if there were a way to tolerate
    even the coldest of temperatures
    There is only one person who fits this description: Wim Hof, more familiarly known as the Iceman, who is pictured on the left.  This sounds absolutely absurd, right?  Well, I agree, but let's take a look at what's going on behind this story.  By meditating and concentrating, Hof can alter the way in which his immune and nervous systems respond to cold.  Investigators state that since this is the only instance that has been heard of, this case must be unique to Hof.  With this in mind, other people may not be able to change their own responses to cold by using the same methods. 

A normal immune system function well by protecting us from bacteria and other viruses.  In order for Hof to be resistant to the cold, he has to prevent his immune system from working properly.  This is very dangerous because he can cause serious damage to the tissue and organs in his body.  Professor Peter Pickkers and Ph.D. candidate Matthijs Kox examined the way in which the immune system is affected by the autonomic nervous response.  "We
administer endotoxin,
a dead cell-wall
component of bacteria,
to healthy volunteers.
The immune system
reacts as if real live
bacteria have entered
the body and mounts
an immune response characterized by the
production of
inflammatory mediators
and flu-like symptoms
like fever, chills and
headache.  These experiments are completely safe and have been performed on more than 240 subjects in our centre."  Although the article states the number of people tested, there is no mention of whether these 240 subjects involve all men, or all women, or a mix of the two.  This is important because if some of the subjects are men, then they would not have as severe of a reaction to an alteration of their immune systems in comparison to women.  In the case of women, they might not respond so well to the introduction of endotoxin into their systems because they get colder faster than men.  This would essentially make an existing problem for women much worse than it already is.

Scientists performed several tests on Hof during meditation and concentration and measured factors such as brain activity, autonomic nervous system activity and inflammatory mediators in the blood.  What was discovered was that the immune system was suppressed by an increase in the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.  Thus, the scientists concluded that this special case of Wim Hof can not be used as scientific evidence because no one else has been discovered who has this same ability to withstand cold temperatures.  The only thing that seems to be missing from this study is the factors that were measured in the volunteers.  There is a mention of how the body reacts in general to endotoxin, but there is nothing about attempting to find a similar comparison through the measurement of brain activity or the responses of the nervous system and the immune system.

Here is a video of Wim Hof:

What do you guys think?  Yes, scientists have come to the conclusion that only Wim Hof is capable of enduring cold, but is it possible that other people could also be capable of this?

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