Can Turning Down the Thermostat Help You Lose Weight?

Updated: May 23, 2016

You may be cold, but if you’re trying to lose weight, new research about a substance called brown fat suggests you think twice before turning up the heat.

Trying to lose weight? Turn down the thermostat. A cozy home could be contributing to your fat, suggests new research in the journal Obesity Reviews. When our bodies are cold, we shiver, causing our muscles to contract to generate heat—and burn calories.

Even when we’re not shivering, the cold activates a substance in our bodies called brown fat. Unlike other fat, brown fat works like a furnace, consuming calories. When we don’t use our brown fat to warm us, we lose it, along with its calorie-burning potential, says study researcher Fiona Johnson, a research psychologist in the department of epidemiology and public Health at University College London.

“Changes in the way we eat and physical activity levels are the primary factors behind increases in obesity,” says Johnson, “but other aspects of our lifestyle can also make a contribution.”

Researchers found that since central heating became common in the 1960s, average room temperatures have increased steadily in both the US and the UK. In both countries, obesity has also soared.

Sources: The New York Times, WebMD, Obesity Reviews

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest