Cold Temperatures Can Speed Up Your Metabolism (So Go Ahead and Have More Mac-n-Cheese)
I hate when people try to find good in cold temperatures almost as much as I hate when people complain about the heat (my ideal temp is approximately 95 degrees). So thanks, science: it turns out cold weather can speed up your metabolism, and I have to be a self-loathing cold-weather cheerleader today. So there is a frosty silver lining to all this frost — if you're trying to lose weight, it may be easier in the winter. And if you're not trying to lose weight, you can eat more and stay the same size. I believe we call this a win/win.
The Dutch study, published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked at how regular exposure to mildly cold air makes the body work harder to keep core temperature up. Blasts of cold increase the amount of energy the body expends (which correlates to the amount of calories burned). Previous studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering, according to LiveScience. But it's not just the shivering that causes metabolism to spike in the cold. It seems that brown fat — a good kind of body fat that burns calories rather than storing them (and decreases with age) — is activated in response to cold temperatures.
"Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 percent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures," said lead researcher Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt. "What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?"
In the study, participants spent six hours a day in a cold room (59 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 days. At the end of this time period, participants had increased levels of calorie-burning brown fat. They also reported adjusting to the colder temperature with time, shivering less and feeling more comfortable with the cold exposure by the study's end. "Similar to exercise training, we advocate temperature training" for weight loss, the researchers concluded. And if below 60 is too cold for you, you can turn up the heat a little. It's possible that temperatures in the mid-60s would also activate brown fat, researchers said.