By mild chill, I’m not talking about the polar vortex that has sent temperatures below freezing throughout the country. In fact, my feet feel frozen solid even as I sit here typing away. So that kind of cold is just uncomfortable and it leaves us feeling hungry for the hearty fare that is in no way good for our waistline.
The mild chill that researchers are talking about is between 62 and 77 degrees F. Even when we crave a cozy office or a warm fire to heat up the room, it may not be good for weight loss, according to Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, a biologist at the Maastricht University Medical Center.
By keeping the room a little cooler, your body has to use more calories than it does when it’s cold. And it’s not because shivering burns calories, because remember we’re only talking about a mild chill here.
"In the long term, that can have an effect on your energy balance and body weight," van Marken Lichtenbelt tells Shots. He and his colleagues outline the evidence for the idea in a commentary published Wednesday in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.
When there’s a chill in the air your body activates what’s called brown fat. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) or brown fat is one of two types of fat (the other being white fat) found in humans. Brown fat contains a lot of heat generating mitochondria, better known as the power plant of the cell. When the body needs to raise your temperature, it burns brown fat.
"What is needed is for the building to get more temperature variation over time, along with drifting temperatures," van Marken Lichtenbelt says on Shots. That can mean keeping the entire office a little cooler during the winter or varying the temperatures in different rooms, he adds.
This is all the more reason to turn down your thermostat just a bit in the winter and not make the room quite so cozy.
Read More: Is Your Schedule Conducive to Being Thin?