RESEARCH: Lowering Thermostat Can Help Shed Pounds

By  //  January 25, 2014

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KEEP THERMOSTAT AT 62-77 DEGREES TO BURN CALORIES

ABOVE VIDEO: FOX NEWS interviews NYU Medical Center’s Dr. Roshini Raj, who comments on recent research out of the Netherlands that suggests gradually lowering indoor temperatures can do the body good by burning calories and fat.

Eating right and exercise are the mainstays of staying fit and staving off obesity, but a research team from the Netherlands recently reported that keeping indoor temperatures low also helps burn calories and should be a consideration in preventing weight gain.

Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt

Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt

Along with a healthy lifestyle, gradually lowering indoor temperatures to between 62 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit can do the body good, says Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, a biologist at the Maastricht University Medical Center and lead author of the new report published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

BROWN FAT BURNS CALORIES, HELPS MAINTAIN THERMAL BALANCE

The research involved putting 51 young, healthy men in a cool room (at about 62 degrees) for 10 days. They found that the men got used to the cold and shivered less because their brown fat was activated.

Turning the central heating down not only saves money but could keep you slim.

Turning the central heating down not only saves money but could keep you slim.

Unlike white fat, brown fat contains a lot of heat-generating mitochondria, the power plants of cells, that the body uses when it needs to raise internal body temperature. Specifically, the brown fat burns up calories and stored white fat to raise body temperature, and by keeping the room a little cooler, your body has to use more calories to maintain a normal temp of 98.6.

Because the only known way to activate brown fat is exposure to the cold, keeping your home and workplace cooler during winter stimulates this natural metabolic process to maintain thermal balance. The non-shivering heat produced from this process can burn away up to 30% of the body’s energy, thus contributing to weight loss.

LOW TEMPS NO REPLACEMENT FOR A HEALTHY DIET AND EXERCISE

The study also suggests that keeping indoor temperatures low helps the body more easily acclimate to cooler temperatures, making it less vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature. “In the long term, that can have an effect on your energy balance and body weight,” says van Marken Lichtenbelt.

His research suggests that keeping temperatures a little lower than you’re used to might just help in keeping your weight down, but he also cautions not to expect lowering the thermostat to lead to magical weight loss, and says that this strategy works best when combined with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet.


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