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Turning up the heat indoors fights fat during the holidays

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Turning up the heat indoors lowers body fat

Millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving today with a traditional turkey dinner that, according to a recent report, could have up to 4500 calories. While not everyone will eat that much at one sitting, a new study has found that consuming your meal with the heat turned up may help you eat less because warmer temperatures suppress appetite.

The study’s findings, published recently in the journal Obesity, showed that people living in homes where the temperature was consistently higher, had consistently lower amounts of body fat.

For the study, researchers from the University of Stirling in Scotland studied the body mass index (BMI) of over 100,000 adult participants with central heating between the years of 1995 to 2007, finding that those who kept the heat in their homes turned up higher than 73.4 degrees (Fahrenheit) on a consistent basis, had consistently lower BMI levels than those who kept the temperature in their homes lower.

The results of the study were exactly the opposite of what the researchers expected, as it’s long been believed that higher indoor temperatures actually made people fatter, contributing to the growing rate of obesity in the U.S. and other countries around the globe.

Study author Michael Daly, a behavioral scientist from the University of Stirling, said that he and his colleagues originally conducted their study under the hypothesis that cooler indoor temperatures helped people maintain lower levels of body fat through shivering, which forces the body to burn more energy in order to generate more heat.

However, their findings proved just the opposite, as participants in the study who lived where the indoor environment was consistently warmer, expended more energy and ate less.

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The research team took into account numerous contributing factors like a lack of exercise, excessive calorie consumption, and multiple other variables related to environmental and demographic factors. But they found that none of these factors had anything to do with lowering the association between warmer indoor environments and lower levels of body fat.

Indeed, the results of the study indicate that rising obesity rates could actually worsen where indoor temperatures are lower or off for any length of time. Although many people turn down the heat to keep costs down, this could actually backfire by increasing appetite; thus, increasing food costs.

Daly suggests keeping the temperature in your home between 68.5 to 73.4 degrees to keep comfortable to the point where you’re neither hot nor cold.

If you turn the temperature above 73.4 degrees, however, Daly says that you’ll burn more energy and eat less because your appetite is suppressed at higher temperatures.

At temperatures above 73.4 degrees, your body loses heat in order to keep it at a constant temperature. This loss of body heat leads to sweating, which takes energy, as does any other kind of evaporative heat loss.

Combined with a decrease in appetite that makes you eat less, your body ends up losing even more energy, which can in turn cause weight loss.

SOURCE: Association of ambient indoor temperature with body mass index in England, Michael Daly, Obesity, doi: 10.1002/oby.20546, published online November 2013