The temperature that is maintained in homes across the United States and the United Kingdom may be an added component to the growth of obesity. This is the conclusion of research conducted by Dr. Paul Lee from Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. The study was presented at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago on June 22, 2014, and published in the journal Diabetes on the same day.
Brown fat is a type of fat that burns energy and helps regulate insulin production. Small animals and human babies have high levels of brown fat and low levels of diabetes and obesity. Dr. Lee’s previous work has shown that adult humans that have higher levels of brown fat are leaner and have lower blood sugar levels. Dr. Lee has also shown that white fat can be converted to brown fat in humans.
The new study examined the relationship between room temperature and the levels of brown fat in men. Five healthy adult males were kept in a temperature controlled environment for four months. During the first month the environment was maintained at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is known to maintain constant levels of brown fat. The second month maintained a temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit, the third month returned to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fourth month maintained a temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
The researchers measured metabolic functions, insulin production, and the amount of brown fat in each participant with positron emission tomography and computed tomography scans. Colder temperatures increased the concentration of brown fat between 30 percent and 40 percent. Higher temperatures decreased the amount of brown fat
The researchers compared the average temperatures in homes in the United States and Britain and found that temperatures maintained in the homes had risen to levels that reduced the production of brown fat. Higher home temperatures were postulated to be the result of higher cooling costs and higher temperatures caused by climate change. The study indicates that home temperature could be a contributing factor to increased levels of obesity and diabetes. The research also offers a simple method for treating obesity and diabetes by manipulating the levels of brown fat.