Turn down your thermostat to lose weight, suggests new study! (Dripping with sarcasm)

So now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you off the bat that making your home cold is not the most viable weight-loss strategy  –  despite what the headlines might suggest.

A recent study was published in the International Journal of Obesity which looked at a number of uncommonly explored potential contributors to obesity, including sleep restriction, house temperature, television watching, consumption of restaurant meals , use of air conditioning and use of antidepressant/antipsychotic drugs.

The authors followed up a sample of 1282 normal weight individuals for a total of 6 years to see who became obese, and tried to tease out factors that may have contributed to the development of their obesity.

Over 6 years of follow-up, 103 of these folks became obese. When the researchers looked back to the beginning, the individuals who eventually would become obese were different from those that maintained their normal weight in a number of ways:

  • Greater saturated fat intake
  • Greater frequency of eating out at restaurants
  • More time spent watching television
  • Lower fiber intake
  • Less physical activity
  • Greater use of anti-depressants
  • Less hours of sleep
  • Greater home temperature  as well as greater use of air-conditioning (this combination is a bit counter intuitive)

In subsequent regression analyses, the authors tried to examine which of these factors was a significant predictor of becoming obese after controlling for all the other factors. In this analysis, low physical activity, frequent restaurant meals, having a high home temperature and not sleeping enough were all significant predictors of becoming obese.

What should be the take home message from this study? As we and others have suggested on numerous occasions: limit eating out, screen time, and saturated fat intake and get some regular physical activity, decent sleep, and keep up your fiber. And you should do these things regardless of your weight status – your health is also important.

Essentially we’ve learned NOTHING NEW here.

What has the media taken away from this study?

Keeping your home temperature higher than average leads to obesity, so we should all turn down our thermostat.

In a few of these articles, well known obesity researcher, David Allison, is quoted and it is quite amusing how his commentary nicely reflects the real lack of significance to these new findings the media are seething over.

Here is an example:

“I wouldn’t say to anyone that if you turn down your thermostat, you’ll lose weight.”

As to the potential benefit of reducing your thermostat, he says: “You’ll almost certainly reduce your energy bills.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Have a great weekend.


Bo, S., Ciccone, G., Durazzo, M., Ghinamo, L., Villois, P., Canil, S., Gambino, R., Cassader, M., Gentile, L., & Cavallo-Perin, P. (2011). Contributors to the obesity and hyperglycemia epidemics. A prospective study in a population-based cohort International Journal of Obesity DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2011.5

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