The scientific journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism released a study Wednesday, claiming that a chilly temperature can provoke weight loss by activating the metabolism to work harder and more efficiently. This study has been years in the making, and now researchers are eager to show how shivering in cooler temperatures can help people lose weight.
Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, an associate professor in the department of human biology at Maastricht University Medical Center and lead author of the study, wanted to answer the question,”What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?” He and his researchers learned over four years ago about brown adipose tissue (also known as “brown fat”) which they first thought only infants had. Brown fat is different from white fat that is associated with obesity; what brown fat does is it is activated by something called nonshivering thermogenesis, which is heat production that kicks in when a person is not shivering. Nonshivering thermogenesis is responsible for creating brown fat when the body heats up in slightly cool temperatures. This mechanism is what burns calories and thus, contributes to weight loss.
For the study, Lichtenbelt had participants get used to being in a room set at a temperature of 59 degrees for 10 consecutive days. They were expected to become accustomed to the chill while sitting in the room for six hours per day. What the researchers learned from this is that the participants grew accustomed to the chill, and stopped shivering as they initially did in the beginning of the study. To get weight loss ready and start shivering may be one option to look into.
As many people spend most of their time indoors at a comfortable temperature, this study shows that adjusting the temperature to where it is slightly chilly and then back to normal (not chilly or cold) and allowing the body to adjust to both can develop more brown fat which burns calories. When people get too comfortable with one set temperature every day, the body does not work to produce brown fat and thus, calories are not burned as quickly.
Not everyone buys into the results of this “shivering” study, however. Dr. Mitchell Lazar from the University of Pennsylvania says Lichtenbelt’s study is really based on theory, although the doctor does contend that calorie burning results from slightly chilly temperatures.
This study is not meant to replace healthy eating habits and exercise. These two things are still the most effective ways to lose weight but obesity remains a problem so this study was conducted to find another way to combat weight loss. Still, getting ready for weight loss to start shivering could be an option. Just as there is exercise training, there can also be something called “temperature training,” according to Lichtenbelt. This doesn’t mean that for someone who wants to lose weight, that he or she can sit on the couch in a cold room. The body does require exercise for weight loss, with the added benefit of boosting mood and general sense of well being.
By Juana Poareo