Many people associate losing weight with perspiring a lot—while jogging under the blazing sun or lifting heavy weights in a muggy gym. Both activities require hard work and an element of heat, both of which not many are fond of.
Hence the interest in this revolutionary idea is that you can shed some pounds while lounging in your comfortable air-conditioned home. Now, THAT is everyone’s ideal workout. But is there truth to it? Can air conditioning help me lose weight?
There are conflicting views on whether the use of air conditioning is affecting our body's metabolism positively or slowing it down, making us fat.
Recent studies presented facts that setting the AC to colder temperatures can increase the amount of "brown fat" in the body. This good kind of fat is supposed to take calories from typical fat and burns them, inducing weight loss.
Researchers are considering the acceleration of brown fat production in a person as a way of treating obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.
On the opposing side, some experts say that turning down the AC temperature so low can sabotage your weight goals.
Sources reveal that cold temperatures can slow down your metabolism because your body acts to conserve its heat and energy. There is also the argument that air conditioning puts our body into the “thermoneutral zone,” in which our body does not have to work too hard to regulate its temperature.
Other resource persons attribute being lethargic to being cold and discourage AC users from constantly blasting their living spaces with cold air if they want to reach their ideal weight.
Despite the contrasting opinions, balanced use of AC that can encourage the production of brown fat in our body, combined with a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper hydration, and enough sleep are well-recommended by fitness specialists.
The interest in losing weight appears to be a universal issue in this day and age. Even more so is losing weight quickly, skipping long hours on the treadmill, or any daily strenuous activities to achieve an ideal weight. Some have tried countless new regimens, the latest diets, or even modern technology to attain their weight goals in record time.
Imagine the buzz when the debate arises whether an everyday home installation such as the air conditioning can either help you shed some pounds or gain more. The makers of air conditioners probably had comfort, convenience, and safety at the top of their minds when they conceptualize this invention. But the latest research shows that there is a connection between chilling your home with processed AC air and the metabolism of the persons enjoying that cool air indoors.
Let us investigate both sides of the matter and see if there are any merits to the clashing views on whether AC use can impact your metabolism in a good way or interfere with your intent to slim down.
There is this question that we want to discuss first: Why do Americans care so much about weight loss and whether it is affected by their use of AC?
AC Fat Loss - More Than Just Looking Good
There is an undeniable reason for Americans to pay close attention to what the researchers reveal about the correlation between losing weight and using the air conditioner.
Second to Japan with a difference of only 1%, the United States is one of the five countries worldwide that have the highest percentage of households that have air conditioning. Statistics show that Japan ranked first at 91%, USA second with 90%, followed by Korea with 86%. Saudi Arabia and China closely compete with 63% and 60% respectively. The countries that followed these top five are showing meager percentages of 16% and below.
We have AC in our homes, we have it in our cars, and we have it in the office. Clearly, AC has changed the way people live and made their time staying indoors a lot more bearable.
How about the obsession with losing weight? Is that only an American thing? Not exactly. You will also be surprised at how this keen interest to trim down body fat is not just to look good physically but more of a serious health issue.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD, an international organization that aims to stimulate economic progress and world trade, revealed ‘The Top Ten Most Obese Countries’ based on the percentage of the adult population with obesity. America ranked No. 1 with 36.2%, followed by Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia.
In a study published by Doctors Mitchell, Catenacci, Wyatt, and Hill, entitled Obesity: Overview of An Epidemic (2012), it is discussed how obesity rates are showing to be increasing around the globe but it is considered an ‘epidemic’ already that continues to grow in the US. Weight-related problems are proven to be affecting not just adults but also 15–20% of children and adolescents in the States, which resulted in many chronic diseases.
Now that we made certain how both air conditioners and weight issues are big things in America, we can now revisit the facts presented by the competing side regarding the impact of the first on the latter.
The Role of “Brown Fat” in Weight Loss
Almost everyone is familiar with and has a love-hate relationship with white fat or white adipose tissue (WAT). If you have just enough, it can keep you warm because it insulates your organs. If you have too much, you will be prone to acquiring heart problems, diabetes, and other diseases.
But a new color of fat makes a lot of health experts intrigued. Brown fat or brown adipose tissue (BAT) obtained its color from its abundant mitochondria, which are rich in iron. Unlike white fat, this new-fangled adipose tissue stores energy in small, compact spaces and is an expert in burning it quickly.
Healthline, one of the fastest-growing health information sites, discusses the wonder of this brown fat in one of their articles and how can it be acquired.
As soon as the brown fat burns, thermogenesis occurs. This is the “dissipation of energy through the production of heat and occurs in specialized tissues including brown adipose tissue and skeletal muscle,” the research Animal Models for the Study of Human Disease (2013) describes.
While this is going on, brown adipose tissue burns calories in the process without shivering. “Brown fat is highly regarded as a possible treatment for obesity and some metabolic syndromes,” Healthline revealed.
If this brown fat is so good for our body, how can we get access to it?
The great news is that we already have it in our bodies in small stocks on our necks and shoulders. Constitutive brown fats are already inherent to a person but there is also a type of brown fat that is called "recruitable" by the medical world. These are converted muscle or white fats to more productive brown fats if put under the right circumstances.
Some drugs can help accelerate the production of brown fat in a person's body. But with its unpleasant side effects, it is not even worth knowing about them.
A scientific study by Paul Cohen and Bruce Spiegelman entitled Brown and Beige Fat: Molecular Parts of a Thermogenic Machine (2015) caught a lot of attention when it talked about how brown fat can be induced by cold ambient temperatures.
Researchers suggest that a minimum of two hours of daily exposure to temperatures around 66˚F (19˚C) may be enough to turn recruitable fat to brown, resulting in weight loss. Empiricists are looking at this cold-induced brown fat with the potential of being a therapy for obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.
Air Conditioning Use Can Cut Both Ways
Although the findings regarding the benefits of brown fats to our body are remarkable, we must keep in mind that experiments are initially done on animals and human experimentation is still in progress.
A rival idea comes to light that the cool and comfort brought about by air conditioning can, in fact, make us fat. ABC News published a report which made the argument that when we are at a too comfortable temperature, our body is put in a “thermoneutral zone.” It is defined as “the range of ambient temperatures without regulatory changes in metabolic heat production or evaporative heat loss,” the National Library of Medicine says.
Since our body is not working too hard to regulate its temperature, we are not spending much energy or tapping into fat storage. If AC does its job well of maintaining the preferred level of temperature year-round, there will be no change in the surrounding temperature that forces our body to regulate.
Another theory that supports the belief that AC can make you gain more weight is that the “heat suppresses your appetite which reduces your food intake, while air-conditioned restaurants are attractive cool places to be, which increases it,” states Treehugger, the world’s largest information site dedicated to sustainable green living.
Excessive use of AC is also regarded as a cause of feeling lethargic and lazy. According to Lifealth, "sitting and sleeping under the air conditioner for too long makes us feel tired and caused fatigue. It causes a headache, lethargy, [and] muscle contraction” which may interfere with our exercise routines.
Being in a cold room can also trick our minds that we are not thirsty. If we are dehydrated, we will miss out on all the benefits water can contribute to weight loss such as suppressing our appetite to eat, increasing calorie burning, and removing body wastes, to name a few.
All in all, adequate use of air conditioning could have the merits of producing brown fat in our body that has the potential to encourage weight loss. But without a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper hydration, and enough sleep, it would just be an uneven formula for reaching our much-desired weight goal.