Scientist think it might play a role. They say that when temperatures are lower, we shiver to keep warm, and this burns more calories. But even if it’s not so cold that we’re shivering – - say you keep the thermostat in the low 60′s (like we do because we’re cheap), your body undergoes something called thermogenesis. And thermogenesis (they believe) may burn something called brown fat as its fuel. Adults carry brown fat in their back and their necks. The article states:
Unlike regular fat, which stores excess energy and calories, brown fat acts like an internal furnace that consumes lots of calories, but it has to be activated first — and cold temperatures do that.
So these British researchers put forth this theory that our toasty warm homes are part of what is making us fatter. It goes like this:
The researchers found that since central heating became commonplace in the 1960s, room temperatures have increased slowly but steadily in both the United States and Britain. In both countries, obesity has also been on the rise.
The average temperature of living rooms in Britain, around 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit in 1978, had risen to 70.3 degrees by 2008. Bedrooms, kept at 59 degrees in 1978, were up to 65.3 by 1996, the last year figures were available.
In the United States, living rooms have long been heated to just over 70 degrees in the winter, at least when the house is occupied. Bedroom temperatures continue to rise and were up to 68 as of 2005, from 66.7 in 1987.
“What’s particularly noticeable is that people are heating the whole of their house,” said Fiona Johnson, a research fellow at University College London and the paper’s lead author. “In the past they would heat the main living areas, and the bedrooms might be cold at night.” That means people no longer have to adjust to different temperatures as they move through the house.
The article goes on to say that we make matter worse by driving everywhere… in heated cars… and that children spend less time playing outdoors. They say that the brown fat is a use it or lose it kind of thing. If you’re not using it (i.e., if you don’t need it), it just goes away. It says babies have a lot of brown fat and that our levels of brown fat decrease over time. But they said that they’ve done studies where they put people in a 60-degree room in lightweight fabric – about the weight of hospital scrubs – and they burn between 100 and 200 more calories per day, 3,500 more over the course of three weeks (which equals a pound of weight.) They say that putting on a sweater diminished the effect. And then they say that it’s hard to make people sit in a 60-degree room.
Without a sweater? No freaking way. Although I used to have to do that regularly. It was called “the word processing pool” and it was in a law firm. All the word processors must’ve been going through menopause or something, because they kept it so cold in that room, you could see your breath. No wonder I was so skinny then. By brown fat was heating me up and making me burn calories.
At the apartment, we have no control over the heat. It used to be fairly Saharan in there come winter. But now that the landlord is trying to get us to leave, it’s rare that I don’t need a sweater. In the country, we used to keep the thermostat at 55 and just burn wood, instead of ever using the heater. Upstairs would be in the high 60s / low 70s, and downstairs would hover between 53 and 57. Hubby’s office used to be downstairs. Poor hubby.
In the last year, we’ve gotten soft. We tend to set it at 65. When the hubby isn’t here, I might go as low as 60. But boy does that make getting out of bed brutal.