Rising outdoor temperatures are associated with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from the Netherlands.
Scientists from Maastricht University Medical Centre have suggested a one degree centigrade rise in environmental temperature could result in 100,000 new incidences of type 2 diabetes in the US each year.
They hypothesise this is because of brown fat, which generates heat in response to cold and burning fat in the process. As environmental temperature rises less brown fat is needed to be burned to keep warm, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance.
“This emphasizes the importance of future research into the effects of environmental temperature on glucose metabolism and the onset of diabetes, especially in view of the global rise in temperatures,” said Lisanne L Blauw, a PhD student at Leiden University Medical Center.
Blauw and colleagues recommend lowering thermostats to between 15 C and 17 C for a few hours every day to lessen the risk of weight gain.
They say that because so much time is spent indoors, our bodies do not naturally burn calories to keep warm. Being colder increases the rate at which calories are burned.
Professor Ashley Grossman of Oxford University, who was not involved in the study, added that opening your bedroom window at night could be a straightforward method of lowering the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“There is some rather encouraging evidence that cooling the body, even by a few degrees, may improve or reduce diabetes,” he said. “Living in a cool environment may be useful to increase insulin sensitivity and ward off diabetes.
“Together with work indicating that adequate sleep can also help avoid obesity and diabetes, maybe we should all aim have a good night’s sleep in a cool bedroom with the windows open to the night breeze.”
However, Dr Louise Brown from University College London is sceptical about the significance of these findings.
She said: “Overall, the uncovering of this association is interesting but I do not feel that is of great help in our fight against the increasing global incidence of diabetes, unless they are suggesting that we all move to colder climates.
“If they have stumbled across a useful pointer that leads to appropriate metabolic research on the role of brown fat in the development of diabetes then great, but their claims are too strong at this stage.”
The findings of the Dutch study have been published online in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care.

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