Study finds link between warm homes and low body fat

(Medical Xpress)—Recent rises in energy prices may lead to an increase in obesity, according to new research by behavioural scientists from the University of Stirling.

The price increases may discourage people from turning on their heating systems over the winter months which could impact negatively upon their weight.

In recent years scientists have suggested that warmer have been a major contributing factor to rises in levels in the UK and across the northern hemisphere during winter time.

However, researchers from Stirling's Behavioural Science Centre studied more than 100,000 adults across England and found a direct link between higher temperatures and lower levels of body fat.

The 13-year study used the Body Mass Index (BMI) levels to indicate levels of body fat and noted those who live in well heated homes are more likely to have low (BMI) levels, while people who spend less time with their heating turned up - or on at all - tend to be heavier.

"We set out to investigate the scientific claims that cooler indoor temperatures help us maintain a healthy weight by pushing our bodies to expend more energy through shivering and generating heat through tissues," explained behavioural scientist and senior lecturer Dr Michael Daly.

"In fact, the research suggests people may eat less and burn more energy when residing in a warmer indoor environment."

Recent UK statistics revealed more than a quarter of people aged 16 and over are now classed as obese. A MORI poll in August billed Scotland as second only to the USA, with two thirds of adults overweight or obese.

Obesity leads to major health problems and puts a strain on the national health system. The Stirling study, to be published in leading journal Obesity, acknowledges contributing factors such as excessive calorie intake and low levels of physical activity – but it is the first to examine the association between indoor household temperature and population BMI levels.

Dr Daly said: "We contrasted BMI levels for people living in different temperature groups and found reduced weight levels among people living in homes heated to above 23 degrees Celsius, which was reflective of about 15 000 of the households studied.

"As national gas bills continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation, this research suggests the obesity epidemic could worsen where heating is turned down below comfortable levels, or off, for lengthy periods to cut costs.

"This is not just about people who live in well-heated homes being in the financial position to afford more expensive low-calorie foods, exercise classes and sporting activities and therefore finding it easier to maintain a low BMI level. The study took age, gender, social class and other factors into account.

"The comfortable ambient temperature of 20.3-23 degrees Celsius is where we feel comfortable in our clothes and are neither hot, nor cold. At temperatures above this we expend more energy and we eat less because our appetite is suppressed."

More information: "Association of ambient indoor temperature with body mass index in England." Michael Daly. Obesity, 2013. DOI: 10.1002/oby.20546

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lack of protein drives overeating

Nov 07, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Humans' instinctive appetite for protein is so powerful that we are driven to continue eating until we get the right amount of protein, even if it means consuming far more energy than we need, according ...

Professor links temperature, obesity

Aug 11, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Fat dogs are cool. And obese people may be, too. That’s what research by a University of South Carolina Salkehatchie professor suggests.

Rising indoor winter temperatures linked to obesity?

Jan 25, 2011

Increases in winter indoor temperatures in the United Kingdom, United States and other developed countries may be contributing to rises in obesity in those populations, according to UCL research published today.

Recommended for you

Gut bacteria promote obesity in mice

Sep 30, 2014

A species of gut bacteria called Clostridium ramosum, coupled with a high-fat diet, may cause animals to gain weight. The work is published this week in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiol ...

An apple a day could keep obesity away

Sep 29, 2014

Scientists at Washington State University have concluded that nondigestible compounds in apples – specifically, Granny Smith apples – may help prevent disorders associated with obesity. The study, thought ...

Boosting purchasing power to lower obesity rates

Sep 25, 2014

In January, as one of the first major initiatives of the Academic Vision, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity will move to UConn from Yale University. The move will allow Rudd faculty to expand their work and build ...

Note to young men: Fat doesn't pay

Sep 23, 2014

Men who are already obese as teenagers could grow up to earn up to 18 percent less than their peers of normal weight. So says Petter Lundborg of Lund University, Paul Nystedt of Jönköping University and ...

Waistlines of US adults continue to increase

Sep 16, 2014

The prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference increased among U.S. adults from 1999 to 2012, according to a study in the September 17 issue of JAMA.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gjbloom
not rated yet Nov 20, 2013
Seems to me skinny people have a higher surface area to volume ratio, so they radiate more body heat. Naturally, they have to keep the thermostat turned higher.