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Hate winter? Don't, it may help you lose weight

If you want to explore all possible ways to lose all those extra weight and unsightly flabs, then you should learn to appreciate winter time. A new study suggests that a mildly cold temperature may actually help boost the efficacy of weight loss efforts.

A study published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism Jan. 22 suggests that mild cold exposure can be a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight since the body has to use more energy to keep itself warm.

"Mild cold exposure increases body energy expenditure without shivering and without compromising our precious comfort. Hence, rethinking our indoor climate by allowing ambient temperatures to drift may protect both health and bank account," researchers from The Netherlands reported in their study, "Cold exposure - an approach to increasing energy".

Dutch researchers led by Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands have been studying the effects of temperature on the body for ten years. "Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 percent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures," said Lichtenbelt. "We hypothesize that the thermal environment affects human health and more specifically that frequent mild cold exposure can significantly affect our energy expenditure over sustained time periods."

In 2009, the researchers discovered that adults have a so-called brown fat or brown adipose tissue, previously believed to be found only in babies. Brown fat is believed to play a role in nonshivering thermogenesis, a heat production process that occurs in cool but not cold temperature. Previous studies on animals show that nonshivering thermogenesis burn calories and generate heat. The researchers conducted a study where they placed participants in 59-degree temperatures for six hours a day and observed that they had more brown fat after ten days.

The researchers recommended temperature training to be included in a healthy lifestyle just as with exercise training but noted that further studies are still needed to identify the long-term effects of regular cold exposure. "Similarly to exercise training, we advocate temperature training," the researchers said. "More-frequent cold exposure alone will not save the world, but is a serious factor to consider in creating a sustainable environment together with a healthy lifestyle."

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