VCU researchers have found a cool way to boost your body’s supply of (metabolism-raising) brown fat cells – by turning down your air conditioning:
Researchers found that mild, prolonged cold exposure – in the range commonly achieved in climate-controlled buildings – is sufficient to expand brown adipose tissue mass and activity, while exposure to warm temperatures result in suppression of this tissue.
Brown adipose tissue is a specialized form of fat tissue that produces heat by burning energy to maintain an organism’s core temperature.
In the study, published last month in the journal Diabetes, researchers studied the effects of long-term exposure to mild cold on fat cells in five healthy, lean male volunteers. They spent a total of four consecutive months sleeping in the temperature-controlled rooms at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Research Center. They were able to perform normal activities during the day.
During the first month, the overnight temperature was “neutral” at roughly 75 degrees. The next month it was cooled to 66 degrees; for the third, it went back to 75 degrees; and finally, for the fourth, it was 81 degrees.
At the end of each month the volunteers underwent metabolic testing in the metabolic chambers at 75 degrees and 66 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the team noted double the volume of brown fat, and insulin sensitivity improved.