At least you’re burning brown fat

January 8, 2014 —

It’s the kind of weather only a global-warming-naysayer could love: A polar vortex has a painfully tight grip on much of the United States, sending temperatures and wind chills to record lows, causing many schools to close and inspiring serious warnings to people to stay indoors or, if they must risk Mother Nature, to bundle up. We’re talking life-threatening weather, people.

The great outdoors: both pretty and pretty depressing these days.

The great outdoors: both pretty and pretty depressing these days.

The Weather Channel promises “a gradual warming trend” will begin in the Midwest today, but don’t even think about packing away that parka. With recent local temperatures of well below zero, we can only hope that, say, five above will feel practically balmy.

If this weather has plagued you with shivers, the blues or a shortage of battery-powered socks (I kid you not, I own two pairs), take comfort in this info from Harvard Health Publications: Bone-chilling weather can kill off “disease-mongering insects and microorganisms” and might benefit the vasculature because “it trains blood vessels in the skin to be responsive.” In addition to giving you those rosy cheeks, exposure to the cold activates our brown fat, the “heat-producing, calorie-burning fat” that babies need to regulate their body temperatures and that we adults partly retain.

“This is a good thing because brown fat burns calories more efficiently than white fat, and so may help control weight,” states the Harvard Health Letter website.

That indeed is a good thing given all those holiday treats I consumed.

Still, the website advises against using prolonged exposure to polar conditions as a weight-loss strategy. Personally, I plan to stay indoors as much as possible during these sub-zero days, catching up on my reading and episodes of “Breaking Bad” and absorbing catechins in my green tea. How are you coping with the cold?


Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.

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