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Turning down the thermostat can help you lose weight, study says

Keeping temperatures a bit chillier at home and work, even when it's as cold as it is now, can make your body burn more calories to keep warm, Dutch researchers say.

Polar vortex cold 2014 01 06Enlarge
Pedestrians walk near Central Park bundled against the cold in advance of a winter storm on Jan. 2, 2014, in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Americans love to crank up the thermostat, especially in bitterly cold times like these.

But a new study suggests turning it down a few degrees could actually help you lose weight.

We know. Not what you wanted to hear right now.

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But Dutch researchers say regular exposure to mildly cold temperatures can make your body burn more calories to keep warm.

"Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 percent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures," lead author Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt told CNN. "What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?"

Lichtenbelt and his team have been studying the phenomena for the past 10 years.

While most animals (humans included) shiver to stay warm, another type of shivering -- called non-shivering thermogenesis -- occurs when the temperature is cool but not cold, according to the research.

More from GlobalPost: US job growth falters as cold weather grips the nation

That type of shivering, activating what's called "brown fat," can burn up to 30 percent of the body's energy and contribute to weight loss.

Brown fat, discovered in adults in 2009, burns calories instead of storing them like white fat.

So does this mean you should crank the heat down to 55 degrees and frolic about in a tank top and underwear?

Not necessarily. It's more theory at this point, but researchers also said it wouldn't hurt.

"It would do no harm," Dr. Mitchell Lazar, chief of the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania, told HealthDay. "It's worth a try for someone who is having trouble losing weight by diet and exercise alone."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/140122/turning-down-thermostat-can-help-lose-weight-study