Cold air can help you lose weight

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New York: Want to lose weight? Turn the heating down!

Regular exposure to mildly cold air may help you lose weight by burning more calories, a new study has found.

Exposure to cold air increases the amount of energy bodies have to expend to keep their core temperature up, researchers said.

Warm offices and homes may be contributing to expanding waistlines, they said.

Being able to control the ambient temperature might be partly responsible for the rise in obesity rates in industrial societies, said researchers from the Netherlands in a study published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 percent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures," said study researcher Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center.

"What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?" Lichtenbelt said.

The human body withstands the cold by shivering, which produces heat; this provides one explanation for why cold temperatures may promote weight loss.

Studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering, compared to when they are resting.

Researchers said brown fat, which burns calories rather than storing them, is activated in response to cold.

After spending six hours a day at 15 degrees Celsius for 10 days, people in the study not only had more brown fat, the participants also said they felt more comfortable and shivered less when exposed to lower temperatures.

The long-term effects of regular exposure to cold are still unclear and require further investigation, but evidence suggests training the body to tolerate cooler air may indeed help burn calories, researchers said.