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Cooler Rooms can Boost Metabolic Activity

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 11:21 AM EDT
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Living in colder temperatures might be beneficial for one's health, a new study reported. According to researchers, turning down the thermostat during bedtime can help boost metabolic activity, which can then lead to metabolic benefits.

For this study, the researchers set out to examine the effects of sleeping in the cold on the fat cells of five healthy, lean men. The team recruited male volunteers who were instructed to sleep in temperature-controlled rooms for four straight months. The rooms were based at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Research Center.

During the first month, the temperature was set at neutral, which was around 75 degrees. The temperature was lowered to 66 degrees during the second month and then turned back up to 75 degrees during the third month. For the last month, the room temperature was set at 81 degrees. All of the participants were allowed to perform their normal activities during the daytime.

The researchers tested the volunteers' metabolic activity after each month. They found that after sleeping in 66-degree weather for four weeks, the participants had twice the volume of brown fat. Brown adipose tissue is a type of fat tissue that burns energy to create heat in order to maintain the body's core temperature. The cooler temperatures also improved the volunteers' insulin sensitivity.

"Our study was performed in lean healthy volunteers, but this is an important proof of concept that brown adipose tissue activation can provide metabolic benefits, such as a reduced risk for diabetes," said lead author Francesco S. Celi, M.D., chair and professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine reported by Medical Xpress.

The researchers concluded that long-term exposure to cooler temperatures could be advantageous. The study, "Temperature-acclimated brown adipose tissue modulates insulin sensitivity in humans," was published in the journal, Diabetes.

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