Temperatures Outside The Comfort Zone Improve Glucose Metabolism

| May 10, 2017

I must admit I don’t like the cold. A temperature somewhere in the mid-20s Celsius suits me just fine. But new research shows that getting a few degrees outside your usual comfort zone could have big benefits for your metabolism and cardiovascular health – for instance, by improving insulin sensitivity by more than 40 per cent.

As I explained in an earlier post here, exposure to cold can trigger the conversion of unhealthy white fat into beneficial brown fat. Unlike white fat, brown fat helps to reduce body weight, improves glucose tolerance and reduces insulin resistance.

In a 10-day study, people with type 2 diabetes were intermittently exposed to a temperature of 15°C during a six-hour period each day.1 Their insulin sensitivity increased by a remarkable 43 per cent – an improvement comparable with very low calorie diets, rigorous exercise programmes, or the most effective diabetes drugs.

The researchers noted that, as well as boosting the activity of brown fat, exposure to cold also caused changes in glucose metabolism in muscle cells. And they found the same beneficial effects occurred when they repeated the experiment with obese participants without type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, a bit of extra heat could do the same thing. In an earlier study, type 2 diabetes patients were treated to 30 minutes in a hot tub, six days a week for six weeks (now that’s one I’d volunteer for). As a result, their fasting blood sugar and other measures related to insulin sensitivity improved significantly.2

Other research shows that similar temperature changes could also boost heart health, metabolism and immune system activity. So, we may not be doing ourselves any favours by leaving the home or office thermostat at the same setting the whole time. The human body is designed to adapt to fluctuating temperatures and does so in ways that bring tangible health benefits.

In my next blog post I look into obesity and type 2 diabetes in children and ask whether schools should be more involved in dealing with them.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Van Marken Lichtenbelt W, Hanssen M, Pallubinsky H, Kingma B, Schellen L. Healthy excursions outside the thermal comfort zone. Build Res Info. 2017 Apr 25 (Online ahead of print). 

2. Hooper PL. Hot-tub therapy for type 2 diabetes mellitus. NEJM. 1999; 341(12):924-925.

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Category: Obesity and Weight Loss

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