The rise in BMI may be connected to controlled indoor temperatures as cold exposure is found to increase the energy expenditure in humans discovers Chemist Direct

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Dutch researchers say central heating used in homes, offices and public buildings may be causing our bodies to burn less calories that would otherwise be used to maintain body heat, instead of being stored as body fat.


Central Heating in cold weather to blame for weight gain??

Central heating used in homes, offices and public buildings may be causing bodies to burn less calories.

About two in every three adults are classed as overweight or obese, with the number of cases in the UK quadrupling per year to about one billion globally suffering from weight issues.

A paper written by Dutch researchers from Maastricht University and Avans Hogeschool points out that most thermostats are set to 25C (77F) or higher when in actuality a temperature of 19C (66F) is sufficient to provide the right balance. Allowing the body to provide its own energy for body heat, along with a healthy diet and exercise, encouraged natural weight loss, and helped the body’s natural thermostat to adjust to temperate fluctuations better.

Dr Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt suggests introducing a better balance in our living conditions to control the shift in maintaining accurate weight through increased energy expenditure. He says "Most people spend 90% of their time indoors in dwellings designed for maximal comfort while minimising our body energy expenditure necessary to control body temperatures.

Energy increases were in the order of 6% in mild cold, and in the long term that could really make a difference.” These findings were published in an article entitled Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 1 in this month’s Science and Society journal. 2

Supporting research from a Japanese study found that brown adipose tissue (BAT) burns fat to produce heat when the body is exposed to cold and plays a role in energy metabolism. Brown adipose tissue, a site of non-shivering thermogenesis, shows promise in combating obesity, since it contributes to the regulation of whole-body energy expenditure and body fat content in both humans and the small rodents used in this experiment.

Cold exposure is the most powerful and physiological stimulus for BAT activation, showing decrease in body fat after people spent two hours per day at 17oC (62.6oF) for six weeks. The team also say their own research found that people get used to the cold over time. After six hours a day at 15oC (59oF) for a period of 10 days, people in a study felt more comfortable and shivered less. 3

Further investigation on the connection between temperature control and increased weight loss was conducted by Dr Michael Daly, at the University of Stirling, as he followed the daily temperature maintained in 100,000 homes in the UK where extreme cold weather increased the risks of stroke and mortality.

He found a slight reduction in weight for those living at temperatures of 23Cor above, possibly due to the energy involved in sweating. Those who lived with higher temperatures also showed less of an appetite, whereas those who used less heating generated 300 times more heat but consumed more calories overall. 4


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Samantha Smith
Chemist Direct
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