Professor links temperature, obesity

August 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.

Dr. Roberto Refinetti, a professor of psychology and associate dean, studied the relationship between body temperature and body weight in lean and obese dogs. His findings showed that obese dogs have lower body temperature than lean dogs, and the difference in temperature is enough to account for weight gain.

Refinetti is the senior author of the study that was published in the Aug. 10 issue of the International Journal of Obesity. He collaborated with researchers from the University of Messina in Sicily, Italy.

“We don’t fully know the causes of the obesity epidemic that the U.S. is experiencing,” Refinetti said. “One possible cause that hasn’t been studied is the relationship between a lower body temperature and obesity.”

His study compared the rectal temperatures of 287 lean and obese dogs over several years. He found that larger dogs have lower temperatures than smaller dogs and that, for the same body size, obese dogs have lower temperatures than lean dogs.

Most humans and most animals gain weight because they accumulate fat. That occurs when they take in more energy than they expend. The unused energy is stored as fat.
“The way to reduce energy intake is to eat less, but that means you feel hungry, and a common way to increase energy expenditure is to exercise, but many people lack the motivation,” he said.

Refinetti’s study explored the theory that obesity may result from a less obvious reduction in energy expenditure: a reduction in body temperature. The idea is that warm-blooded animals spend much of their energy generating heat to keep the body warm. However, some animals have body temperatures that are naturally lower and therefore do not need to use as much energy to stay warm.

The reduced body temperature would be sufficient to account for body weight gain over several months.

“Although not yet replicated in humans, these results suggest that human may be caused by a small reduction in the temperature at which the body maintains itself,” he said.

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RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Aug 11, 2011
There is a flaw in this argument. If you put on two or three thick woollen outer garments then you'd either melt or, to remain thermally stable, temperature has to be lowered somewhere. Fat is like a very warm insulating garment and the more fat you have the more thermal insulation you have and so the hotter you will be.

I sounds to me like fat causes the temperature to lower so as to avoid overheating in the much lower heat loss condition.
cyberCMDR
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
I've always been skinny and my average temp is about 97.2 F. If lower body temps are a factor in obesity, it is not a big one.
_nigmatic10
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
Fat acts as a thermal barrier. The more in place, the more of a thermal barrier there is between the core temperature and the skin. It only stands to reason if we're talking about surface/skin temperatures, it would only be logical large amounts of fat would show a cooler temperature on the surface.
nanotech_republika_pl
not rated yet Aug 14, 2011
" (...) these results suggest that human obesity may be caused by a small reduction in the (core body) temperature (...)". Or maybe the other way round: Less exercise leads to lower metabolic rate which leads to lower core temperature, and at the same time, less (read: not enough for the food intake) exercise leads to more fat.

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