Fall is settling in, and that familiar autumnal nip of cool air pushes through our hair as we rake unruly leaves or knock door to door on Halloween night with our children in tow. The first frost coats the ground in a white haze, and we adjust our morning rituals to include a few minutes to step outside and warm the car before going about our weekday business. Fireplaces spring to life after a summer hiatus, and the talk shifts toward Thanksgiving planning.
Winter will follow soon, and after the glow of Christmas comes chilly January and February. Daylight is sparse, and the nip of air that was Fall becomes the howl that is wintry wind. We are visited by occasional snow and sometimes absurd snow that is multiple inches deep. It is the stuff of snowmen, snow shovels, and school cancellations. Sweaters are worn in the evening, and the thermostat is adjusted up"¦seventy-four, seventy-five, seventy six. We become heat obsessed, and the dial of the thermostat is manhandled, cranked and spun and twisted up and up until we have attained the desired warmth.
And as the heat goes up, so does our weight. That toasty feel of indoor heating we manipulate so freely may actually be contributing to obesity.
We Burn More Calories When We Are Cold
If you are inclined to do nothing, then do it in the cold.
A University of Utah study has shown that basal metabolic rate, the burning of calories without expending energy, increases a bit in colder temperatures. In other words, our bodies must work harder to stay warm. Should we begin to shiver, the work done by the body increases again.
Historically, human beings have lived in some pretty cold places where they have had to wrestle with icy temperatures for extended periods. Calories were burned at a higher level to keep warm, and the increased metabolism helped to curb being overweight or obese. Obviously, this is no longer the case.
The Upward Spiral of RoomTemperatures
Central heating became common in the 1960’s, and since that time both the United States and Britain have been steadily raising the room temperatures in their homes.
In 1978, the average temperatures in British living rooms was around sixty-five degrees. Bedroom temperatures averaged fifty-nine degrees. By 2008, living room temperatures were up to about seventy degrees. In 1996, the last year figures were available for bedroom temperatures, the temperatures had gone up to about sixty-five degrees. Room temperatures have steadily increased in the United States as well. Obesity has also been on the rise in both countries.
People generate heat without shivering by a process called non-shivering thermogenesis. This process involves the substance called brown fat, a type of fat activated by cold temperatures that burns a great number of calories. Indoor heating interrupts the process.
Lack of exposure to cold temperatures results in the loss of brown fat and will affect a person’s ability to burn energy. But if a person is regularly exposed to cold, she can generate brown fat once again.
So if you want an easily available extra weapon for weight control, turn down the temperature. After all, every little bit helps.
Living life well-fed,
Huffpost Healthy Living - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/16/calories-cold-weather_n_1096331.html
Technorati - http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/is-your-warm-house-the-reason/
The New York Times - http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/central-heating-may-be-making-us-fat/