If you want to lose weight, turn down the thermostat

Maybe we should call it the Minnesota diet.

Researchers say cold weather can make you thinner, Time.com is reporting today.

Researcher Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands has issued a study showing that when men were exposed to the cold, they became acclimated to it over several days and shivered less, even when the thermostat of the refrigerated room was lowered.

The men used “brown fat,” which burns energy and dissipates as heat, the researchers said.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Sherbrooke in Canada, for example, found that simply exposing people to the cold activates brown fat, and that once awakened, this fat can actually start to eat away the white fat that builds up around the hips and elsewhere.

According to the researchers of the latest report, for young and middle-aged people, such non-shivering heat production–from brown fat–can burn away up to 30% of body’s energy, thus contributing to weight loss. So it’s not entirely out of the question that bouts of chilliness can drive this process and melt away pounds.

That suggests that all the heating we have in the winter may not be doing our waistlines any favors. “Indoor temperature in most buildings is regulated to minimize the percentage of people dissatisfied,” write the researchers in their report. “This results in relatively high indoor temperatures in wintertime. By lack of exposure to a varied ambient temperature, whole populations may be prone to develop diseases like obesity. In addition, people become vulnerable to sudden changes in ambient temperature.”

Now, about that awful wind chill …