Study finds link between warm homes and low body fat

November 19, 2013, University of Stirling

(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."

Explore further: Lack of protein drives overeating

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

Related Stories

Lack of protein drives overeating

November 7, 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

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.

Obesity epidemic in America found significantly worse than previously believed

April 2, 2012
The scope of the obesity epidemic in the United States has been greatly underestimated, according to a study published Apr. 2 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Researchers found that the Body Mass Index (BMI) substantially ...

Large prospective study finds long-term obesity is associated with poorer pancreatic cancer survival

October 21, 2013
New results from a prospective study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology show that patients with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range live on average two to three months less after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, ...

Slow-down in the rising weight of most English adults

September 3, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—The trend of increasing body mass index (BMI) may be slowing down in most English adults, according to research published by researchers from The University of Manchester online in the International Journal ...

Recommended for you

Evening hours may pose higher risk for overeating, especially when under stress, study finds

January 16, 2018
Experiments with a small group of overweight men and women have added to evidence that "hunger hormone" levels rise and "satiety (or fullness) hormone" levels decrease in the evening. The findings also suggest that stress ...

Bariatric surgery prolongs lifespan in obese

January 16, 2018
Obese, middle-age men and women who had bariatric surgery have half the death rate of those who had traditional medical treatment over a 10-year period, reports a study that answers questions about the long-term risk of the ...

Sugar-sweetened drinks linked to overweight and obesity in children, adults: Analysis of new studies

December 23, 2017
A new review of the latest evidence on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)- which includes 30 new studies published between 2013 and 2015 (and none of them industry sponsored) - concludes that SSB consumption is associated with ...

As income rises, women get slimmer—but not men

December 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—A comprehensive survey on the widening American waistline finds that as paychecks get bigger, women's average weight tends to drop.

Policy and early intervention can curb obesity rates

December 18, 2017
More information and emphasis on dietary lifestyle changes that prevent obesity, and its comorbidities, have not reduced the rise in obesity in U.S. adults and adolescents, according to a recent study in the New England Journal ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.