say many of us now keep our homes so cozy that we no longer have to
burn as many calories to naturally warm up our bodies.
The study finds that modern centrally heated homes are helping to send
obesity rates soaring. Scientists from University College London say it
is an increasing problem across the developed world where average indoor
temperatures are constantly rising.
The recent study out of the journal
Obesity Reviews notes
that it's not just diet and activity levels that have changed in
correlation with rising obesity numbers, but ambient temperature.
Central heating became common in developing countries including the U.S.
and U.K. around the 1960’s. Now commonly people are heating their homes
at all hours of the day, even as they sleep, and spending less time
outdoors exposed to the elements. Central heating is more common, while
space heaters, fireplaces, and electric heaters are less common, meaning
the entire house gets and stays warm. People in developed countries
exist in relative thermoneutrality: a nice 68-72 degrees F. The authors
guess that with less exposure to thermal stress, we’re burning fewer
calories. Our bodies have an easier time regulating our internal
temperatures, and expend less energy doing so.
And its impact on weight is made worse by the extra time we now spend
indoors, whether working from home, watching TV or shopping online. Even
when we do venture out, it is often via heated cars or other transport
to offices and workplaces where the temperature is carefully controlled
by air conditioning units.
The research said there was a direct link between ‘reduced
exposure to seasonal cold and increases in obesity in the UK and U.S.’.
If the body is already warm it does not need to convert a
‘brown’ fat known as adipose tissue into energy to generate heat, the
study said. Brown fat was previously thought to be present only in
infants, playing a vital role in keeping them warm, but recent research
found it also in adults.
This latest study suggested that prolonged exposure to comfortable
warm temperatures may permanently reduce the body’s ability to burn this
Brown fat, prevalent in the upper back and necks of most adults,
consumes our calories when we are inside cooler rooms with temperatures
in the low 60s or less.
Lead author Fiona Johnson said: ‘Increased time spent indoors,
widespread access to central heating and air conditioning, and increased
expectations of thermal comfort all contribute to restricting the range
of temperatures we experience in daily life.
‘This reduces the time our bodies spend under mild thermal stress – meaning we’re burning less energy.
‘This could have an impact on energy balance and ultimately have an impact on body weight and obesity.’
She called for health strategies to look at heating just as they
currently look at other environmental factors such as diet and exercise.
All is not lost—Johnson said individuals should turn down the heat today.
Thanks for reading! What do you think?