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Feeling Cold Can Aid Weight Loss

Update Date: Jan 22, 2014 02:21 PM EST

Exposing yourself to the cold may be an easy way to lose weight, according to a new study.

New research suggests that regular exposure to mild cold may be a healthy and sustainable way to help people lose weight.

"Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 percent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures," first author Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands, said in a news release. "What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature? We hypothesize that the thermal environment affects human health and more specifically that frequent mild cold exposure can significantly affect our energy expenditure over sustained time periods."

Lichtenbelt has been studying the effects of mild cold for almost a decade. Previous studies revealed that people who spend two hours a day at 17 degrees Celsius (62.6 degrees F) for six weeks had a decrease in body fat.

The latest study also found that people get used to cold over time. Participants felt more comfortable and shivered less at 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees F) after being exposed to six hours of cold a day for a period of 10 days.

Researchers said the findings suggest that non-shivering heat production can account for up to 30 percent of the body's energy budget in young and middle-aged people. They explain that lower temperatures can significantly affect the amount of energy a person expends overall.

"Indoor temperature in most buildings is regulated to minimize the percentage of people dissatisfied," researchers wrote in the study. "This results in relatively high indoor temperatures in wintertime. This is evident in offices, in dwellings and is most pronounced in care centers and hospitals. By lack of exposure to a varied ambient temperature, whole populations may be prone to develop diseases like obesity. In addition, people become vulnerable to sudden changes in ambient temperature."

The findings are published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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