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Ambient Temp, Obesogenic Environments

Monday, September 09, 2013

Really interesting article in this morning's Globe and Mail about the effect of moderate temperature variations on brown fat and calorie burn. Here's the link:


But in a nut shell: we are living in too comfortable and too restricted a temperature range, what with heating in winter and air conditioning in summer: from home to car to office without need for our bodies to do the work of adjusting to outdoor temperature changes. Our ambient temperature is always pretty much the same.

And: that means diminution of the calorie-burning role of good "brown fat" in accommodating temperature changes.

Combine too constant and too comfortable temperatures with too many fast food triggers, too much commuting time in cars/trains/buses/planes, too much screen time: and it's just one more factor in creating the obesogenic environments in which we all increasingly live. Getting fatter and fatter.

Take away? Maybe, with cooler weather coming, not being so quick to jack up the temperature. Maybe tolerating some discomfort (what a radical thought: not sure I'm comfortable with that!!). Maybe giving the ol' brown fat a chance to trigger some calorie burn just adjusting the internal body temp for us: rather than flicking the thermostat to adjust the external ambient temp.

OK: if I can tolerate the discomfort of hunger (not an emergency) and exercise (mostly fun when it's over) then welcoming temperature changes with the seasons could be another small adjustment that could make a difference with respect to weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

It may be another signal, somewhat like Refuse to Regain's primarian diet, that we cannot simply ignore our biology. We cannot simply ignore the reality that our evolution as physical entities hasn't kept pace with modern technologies. The ready availability of fat, salt, sugar. The ready availability of all kinds of machines that eliminate the exercise people got daily as recently as the 1950s, washing clothes and washing dishes and cleaning and walking to work and walking to school. The tolerance of heat in summer without air conditioning (run through the sprinkler!) and cold in winter without central heating (put on a sweater! chop some wood!).

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I had never thought about that. It's always been about being comfortable. Not to say I haven't been too cold or too hot but I think we all go to comfort if we can.

    You may be on to something but as always you gave me something to think about!

    Take care!


    1682 days ago
    We cannot ignore our biology. So true. Thanks for another very interesting article. If you do experiment, let us know if you think it helps! -Marsha
    1683 days ago
    Very interesting! I'm big on dressing warmer in the winter (mostly to save energy dollars) but am not too fond of being HOT in the summer! Right now it's 99 degrees with about 80% humidity, and that seems too hot for either man or beast.
    1683 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/10/2013 5:40:56 PM
    Thanks for sharing this! If we are so swaddled in food and blankets that we erase all sensation, we're... dead. Maybe we should welcome and (at least try! .. for a while!) to enjoy the sensations of being hot or cold or hungry.
    1684 days ago
    I've read that sleeping cold helps too - no electric blanket, maybe even fewer blankets.

    Of course, I prefer just living in a warm climate, LOL - and yes, I sleep with a blanket when nighttime temps hit about 22 C. (Some of us are just cold all the time.)
    1684 days ago
    Oh it is good to read your blogs once again. I didn't realize the science behind this but have always felt that making my body work a little just to be comfortable is a good thing. Thanks for the excellent info.
    1684 days ago
    1684 days ago
    Does putting on a sweater equate with turning up the temperature? Since I lost weight, I get cold much more quickly... unless I'm in the middle of a workout. I do like to be warm. Cold... not so much.
    1684 days ago
  • _LINDA
    I will never use air conditioning no matter how hot it gets. It made me sick on our bus trip with the constant exposure to it on the bus because it was really hot outside. I would have loved to just crank open a window and let the wind flow through my hair. That is all the cooling I need. I will always be washing dishes by hand, getting a dishwasher is a big waste of money in all ways, the amount of water and electricity to run it comes to mind. I feel like I wash enough clothes by hand as I have to wash my workout clothes that way because I don't have enough to make a load in a front end loader (they warn not to underload it although it sure doesn't stop some people. Nothing wrong with getting back to basics. But my weight is resisting going down, hoping its not put my new weight at a set point :( Was disciplined over the weekend.
    The upside of it all is think of the money you will save on energy bills not overdoing it with the artificially controlled environment!
    1685 days ago
    Very interesting! Sounds true to me. I do try not to overheat or overcool my house.
    1685 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    Sent this to my co-workers. Will be fun to see if any of the office temps change?
    1685 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon Interesting.
    1685 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was an interesting article. The Italians who raised their temperature were more likely to become obese. However, I grew up in Hawaii where we did not have air conditioning or heating. I wonder if he should study warm climates.

    I do think there is an easy life of food flooding..r2r and comfortable temperatures.
    I worry about the obesity with my students who go home and play computer games instead of playing outside.

    Thanks for sharing an interesting article.
    1685 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Too many "TOOs". Excesses do us in. Even the excess of sameness.

    It is true that Nature provides us with variety which helps keep our bodies adjusting. And variety is the spice of life. N'est-ce pa?

    "combine to create an environment that is “obesogenic.”" All the factors listed do indeed contribute to a lifestyle that fosters obesity.

    Loved that last line. "use the money you save on heating to hire a personal trainer." Which is something I still would not do. During menopause I turned down the heat and my family shivered. :) I spent the money on thermals.
    1685 days ago
    Interesting experiements. I remember a episode of Spark Radio a couple months ago where they touched on this.

    I'm okay with being a little warm in the summer and a little chilly in the winter. DH and I are total opposites!

    Thanks for putting this out there!
    1685 days ago
    Aha! I knew it... you're a Pioneer woman at heart! Back to the basics, let the biology do the work! Walk, cycle, and don't crank up the AC/Heat. And get the food act cleaned up too.

    Yep, a believer in the Pioneer spirit! We're not made to be "too comfortable"... and if we get that way, we cease being able to function like Pioneers.

    Spark on!
    1685 days ago
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