Do Cold Temperatures Help You Lose Weight?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • We had a terribly cold December here in South Dakota and our heating bill reflected this…higher than it’s been since we moved here three years ago. Needless to say, we are wearing a few more layers in January and letting the house get a little cooler.


    For those of you also not turning up the thermostat too much, the chillier temps do help promote faster metabolisms and potentially weight loss.


    When external temperatures decrease the body has to work harder by expending more energy (i.e. calories) to maintain core body temperatures.


    This isn’t new knowledge, but research continues to be conducted to determine the effects of temperature on weight loss.

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    Recently associate profession Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt at Maastricht University Medical Center worked with a team to explore whether or not frequent exposure to mild cold temperatures would boost the body’s energy expenditure.


    Studies have shown shivering to increase heat production. Shivering is a short term response to low temperatures to protect the body temperatures dropping to dangerous levels. Some studies have also found a second type of shivering, referred to as non-shivering thermogenesis, which also increases heat output.


    However, the body acclimates to colder temperatures over time. For example, it was found people spending six hours a day at 59 degrees Fahrenheit shivered less and were more comfortable at the end of a 10 day period.


    At this time there is no exact measure for how being cold can increase calories burned and promote weight loss. Weight gain can occur gradually. It only takes 100 extra calories a day to add 10 extra pounds each year. If you could counteract this with a cooler environment…might be worth exploring.


    I do find the following particularly interesting.


    Did you know there were two different types of fat?


    Some researchers are experimenting with ‘cold-temperature training’ or ‘acclimatization’. Acclimatization has been show to increase brown fat in rodents.

    Brown fat burns more calories than white fat. Some studies also indicate brown fat has a beneficial impact on fat metabolism, blood sugar, and body weight.


    If something as minor as turning down the thermostat enhances my efforts to maintain health via diet and exercise, plus causes a beneficial shift in the type of fat I do store….I’ll be interested to see what future research finds.


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Published On: January 23, 2014