I will never forget the shock I felt shivering under the down comforter of my husband’s New England relatives the first time we went to visit. Looking at the deliberately cracked window I realized, to my horror, – that they meant for it to be freezing in there. Either that or they wanted to get rid of me. O.K., never mind… The point is, I was used to my comfortable suburban home where I could go barefoot inside in the winter. I could see no good reason for icicles to be growing from my nose while I slept…until now. It appears that whether they actually liked it that way or were just being thrifty New Englanders, my in-laws were onto something.
Results of the Impact of Chronic Cold Exposure In Humans (ICEMAN) study by Dr Paul Lee and colleagues presented in 2014, have shown that mild cold about 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit, increases brown fat amount and activity by about 30-40%, while the mild warmth at 80.6º Fahrenheit decreases the amount of brown fat.
This is important because brown or adipose fat, actually helps burn white fat, increasing insulin sensitivity and bringing blood sugar levels down. Brown fat also plays a significant role in regulating body weight when someone overeats.
According to the report from the Garvan Institute, “…people with plentiful brown fat stores tend to be lean and have low blood sugar levels.” The study also shows that ordinary human white fat cells can change into brown fat cells. (Yay!)
Indications are that warmer room temperatures over the last few decades could be a contributing factor in the rise in obesity and diabetes in the US and UK, and that reducing temperatures in order to grow brown fat could be a viable strategy in the treatment of both.
Pulling out the long underwear now.