Turn your thermostat down -- and don't add a sweater. That, researchers report, will not only save energy to heat your home but will use more body energy and perhaps aid weight loss.

Before you get too excited, the scientists are not suggesting the life of a chilly couch potato is the answer to the obesity epidemic. But, they say in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, "We suggest that regular exposure to mild cold may provide a healthy and sustainable alternative strategy for increasing energy expenditure."

"Obesity is a consequence of positive energy balance," Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues wrote in the journal this week. Tipping that balance can be achieved by eating less and exercising more. But as the researchers note, that's not working out too well for many people and perhaps it's time to look at other potential solutions.

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

What they found was that indoor temperatures that are a bit cooler might help us burn more calories. It might take some getting used to. The researchers said that a group of people who spend six hours a day in 59-degree temperatures felt more comfortable and increased calorie-burning brown fat. In young and middle-age people, that heat production can account for a few percent to 30 percent of the body's energy budget.



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