Making your environment a little colder might help you increase your brown fat, a healthy type of fat that helps you burn calories and possibly even drop pounds, according to researchers.
A new article in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism says that prolonged exposure to relatively low indoor temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s (Fahrenheit) may increase energy expenditure and cause a decrease in body fat.
Researchers reported that when a small group of subjects spent six hours a day in 59°F temperatures, their bodies increased nonshivering thermogenesis (NST), or heat generation, that is separate from shivering. NST activates brown fat, a healthy type of fat that breaks down energy stored in ordinary fat.
At the end of the study, the subjects had increased amounts of brown fat. The researchers also found that the subjects adapted to colder temperatures over the course of about 10 days, shivering less and feeling less cold.
This process could result in decreased body fat and dropped pounds. Indeed, a previous Japanese study found that people who spent two hours a day in an indoor environment that was set to 62.6°F for six weeks experienced a decrease in body fat.
The study’s authors suggest that because humans inhabit indoor environments about 90% of the time, altering indoor conditions could have a significant impact on well-being and weight loss. Researchers suggested that people might benefit from setting their thermostat to mirror the ups and downs of outdoor temperatures, while still keeping it warm enough that they were not shivering, and cool enough that they were not sweating. The researchers did note that 59°F might be too cold for many people, but hypothesized that slightly warmer temperatures in the low to mid 60s could also provide many of the same benefits.