Melbourne: Staying in a cool environment may help you stay fit as researchers have discovered that such environment stimulates growth of brown fat that burns energy to generate heat and may protect people from diabetes and obesity.
Ambient temperatures can influence the growth or loss of brown fat in people, cool environments stimulate growth, warm environments loss, the findings showed.
Previous studies have shown that people with plentiful brown fat stores tend to be lean and have low blood sugar levels.
"The big unknown until this study was whether or not we could actually manipulate brown fat to grow and shrink in a human being," said endocrinologist Paul Lee from Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.
"What we found was that the cold month increased brown fat by around 30-40 percent," Lee added.
For the study, the researchers recruited five healthy men and exposed them to four-month-long periods of defined temperature - within the range from 19 degrees Celsius to 27 degrees Celsius.
They lived their normal lives during the day and returned each night to stay for at least 10 hours in a temperature-regulated room.
Independent of the season during which the study was carried out, brown fat increased during the cool month and fell during the warm month.
"The improvement in insulin sensitivity accompanying brown fat gain may open new avenues in the treatment of impaired glucose metabolism in the future," Lee said.
On the other hand, the reduction in mild cold exposure from widespread central heating in contemporary society may impair brown fat function and may be a hidden contributor to obesity and metabolic disorders, Lee added.
The study appeared in the journal Diabetes.