British researchers are trying to causally link raising the thermostat to obesity prevalence.
“Domestic winter indoor temperatures” appear to be rising, the researchers wrote, as is obesity. They focused on a causal link, focusing on acute and long-term effects of being comfortable in the winter.
They write: “Reduced exposure to seasonal cold may have a dual effect on energy expenditure, both minimizing the need for physiological thermogenesis and reducing thermogenic capacity. Experimental studies show a graded association between acute mild cold and human energy expenditure over the range of temperatures relevant to indoor heating trends.”
They also look at brown adipose tissue (BAT), aka “brown fat,” the type of fat that actually consumes energy instead of stores it. We all have this fat as infants, to help us regulate our body temperatures until our bodies learn to do it on their own. The researchers suggest that “increased time spent in conditions of thermal comfort can lead to a loss of BAT and reduced thermogenic capacity.”
Determining a link “may raise possibilities for novel public health strategies to address obesity,” although I shiver to think what those strategies might entail.
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*