Does a Room’s Temperature Affect Our Metabolism?

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By Brianna Siciliano

Something that most people do not know is that human beings have two main types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat stores extra energy, and when your body has too many white fat cells, risks for diseases (like type two diabetes) increase. Brown fat, on the other hand, burns chemical energy to create heat and help your body maintain body temperature. Research has shown that in cold temperatures, white fat cells take on brown fat cell’s characteristics.

Over the timespan of four months, research was studied on five healthy men who were an average age of 21. During the day, the men participated in regular activities. At night, the men returned to the private rooms. For the first month of the trial, the men’s rooms were set to temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. During the second month, the rooms were set to temperatures of 66 degrees. For the third month, the rooms were set to temperatures of 75 degrees once again. During the final month, the rooms were set to temperatures of 81 degrees.

The men were exposed to their rooms’ temperatures for at least 10 hours each night. While they were in their private rooms, each man wore standard hospital clothing. There were no blankets for them to use when the room temperature dropped; all the men were offered was their hospital clothing and bedsheets. Meals were provided, and their calorie and nutrient intakes were carefully monitored. At the end of each month, the five men had extensive evaluations, which included muscle and fat biopsies, energy expenditure testing, and PET/CT scanning on their neck and upper back (to measure brown fat volume and activity).

After one month of exposure to mild cold temperatures, the five participants had a 42 percent increase in brown fat volume and a 10 percent increase in fat metabolic activity. During the final month of exposure, with the warm temperatures, the results were completely reversed. These findings hint that humans may adjust to cool temperatures by increasing brown fat cells, which in the long run may improve glucose metabolism. These changes can be reversed if human bodies are exposed to warmer temperatures.

So, does a room’s temperature affect our fat and metabolism? Yes, it does!