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Central heating the main cause of diabetes and obesity?

The widespread introduction of central heating in the modern world is perhaps the hidden cause of the spread of obesity and diabetes, according to the authors of a study which for the first time experimentally shows the stimulating effect of lower temperatures in the human environment on the growth of the volume of energy-burning brown adipose tissue and the possibility of manipulation of this factor.

The results of the study were presented at the joint conference of the International Association of Endocrinology and the Association of Endocrinologists ICE/ENDO 2014 held in Chicago and subsequently published in the journal Diabetes.

Fat cells /adipocytes/, present in the human body, form white and brown fat tissue. White accumulates energy, and brown, on the contrary, spends it by generating heat.

A large amount of brown adipose tissue is present in the body of children, but in the process of growth, its reserves decrease, but do not disappear completely.

Previous research conducted by a team of scientists led by endocrinologist Paul Li of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (Sydney, Australia) showed that adults with well-developed brown adipose tissue do not suffer from obesity, but glucose levels in blood in them are lower compared to those in which white adipose tissue predominates.

In addition, Paul Li’s team found that white adipose tissue cells can turn into brown adipose tissue cells, and this process occurs in muscle tremors with prolonged exposure to cold.

A new study by the team of scientists, led by Paul Lee, experimentally proved that the temperature of the human environment directly affects the increase and correspondingly the decrease of brown fat tissue – the long stay at relatively low temperatures stimulates the increase of brown adipose tissue at the expense of white, and at relatively high temperatures the opposite process is induced.

A group of 5 healthy men was selected to participate in the four-month experiments.

During the day they led their usual way of life, but at night they returned to the building of the clinical center and for 10 hours stayed in a room with a specially regulated air temperature.

In the first month of the experiment, the air temperature was maintained at a neutral level of 24 degrees Celsius, where the human body does not need to generate additional energy to maintain a constant internal temperature.

In the second month, the air temperature was lowered to 19 degrees Celsius, in the third it was returned to 24 degrees, and in the third it was raised to 27 degrees.

At the end of each month, the participants went through a detailed examination of the indicators of the metabolism, with the data of the first month accepted as the baseline. The volunteers had a measurement of the volume of brown adipose tissue and were observed metabolic changes in muscle tissue.

It was found that regardless of the season in which the experiment was conducted, the layer of brown adipose tissue in all participants increased in the period of the “cool” month, by about 30-40%, and was shortened during the “warm” month.

At the same time, the increase in the volume of brown adipose tissue was accompanied by such a positive metabolic phenomenon as an increase in insulin sensitivity, while in metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the exact opposite changes are observed, an increase in insulin resistance to insulin, which means that larger amounts of the hormone are needed to maintain normal blood sugar.

In the thermo-neutral period, the volume of brown adipose tissue in the participants decreased and returned to baseline levels, and in the “warm” period it decreased below these levels.

Endocrinologist Paul Li notes – “Until now, we didn’t know if it was possible to influence the volume of brown adipose tissue, and therefore the metabolism of glucose in the body. Our results show that such a possibility exists , which will open up new possibilities for the treatment of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.”

Based on the data obtained, Paul Li suggests that the ubiquitous introduction of central heating in modern homes and the corresponding reduction of the time exposure to cold air on the body, as strange as it may seem, is possible to is one of the factors, along with improper nutrition and insufficient physical activity, contributing to the growth of the number of people suffering from obesity and metabolic disorders.

Research conducted in Great Britain and the USA shows that over the past decades the average air temperature in homes has risen from 19 to 22 degrees Celsius, which has a significant impact on the function of brown fat tissue – Paul Lee also points out.

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