Researchers find that warmer or cooler indoor temperatures can lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes

Decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes could lie in the thermostat. A research team led by Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt has discovered a link between one’s health and their exposure to indoor temperature variations.

“It has previously been assumed that stable fixed indoor temperatures would satisfy comfort and health in most people. However, this research indicates that mild cold and variable temperatures may have a positive effect on our health and at the same time are acceptable or even may create pleasure,” van Marken Lichtenbelt has said, reports Science Daily.

In their paper, first published in the journal Building Research & Information, the researchers found that moderately warm and cold environments, outside of the usual 69.8 to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, increased both metabolism and energy expenditure. They accomplished this through, “mild passive-warmth-acclimation tests (without exercise)” over the course of 10 days to six weeks. The researchers determined that the cold encouraged activity in brown fat, which burns glucose and fatty acids, to increase the amount of body heat. Meanwhile, passive exposure to higher temperatures resulted in improved resilience to heat.

Shifts in interior conditions were also discovered to have an effect on glucose metabolism. In a statement to the Independent, van Marken Lichtenbelt likened periodic contact with temperate cold to medicine and therapy, commenting: “Ten days of intermittent mild cold exposure in Type 2 diabetes patients increased insulin sensitivity, and thereby glucose handling by more than 40 percent. This is comparable with the best available pharmaceutical or physical activity therapies.”

The researchers believe that these variations could help against other metabolic diseases aside from Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity. Moreover, since diabetes and obesity are known to raise one’s chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, they claim heart health is positively affected as well. Additionally, the research team has also noted that acclimating to dynamic low and high temperatures could even result in these fluctuations eventually feeling pleasant or pleasurable. As noted by van Marken Lichtenbelt and his colleagues, one need not expose themselves to extreme temperatures or uncomfortable situation, however. (Related: Diabetes, asthma, heart disease share biochemical pathway due to rogue aP2 protein.)

“This ground-breaking research provides a new approach to how we think about the heating and cooling our of buildings. The health benefits from a short exposure to a more varied temperature range will redefine our expectations on thermal comfort. In turn, this will change our practices for heating and cooling our buildings,” said editor-in-chief of the journal, Richard Lorch.

As a result of their findings, van Marken Lichtenbelt and the other researchers have advocated for the incorporation of drifting temperatures into modern buildings. When coupled with diet and exercise, homes and offices that have had these measures implemented could very well help occupants achieve better health. “This information is needed to support the design of healthy, comfortable and energy-friendly indoor environments,” the researchers have said.

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