Your Freezing Office A/C Might Be Making You Fat

by . August 11th, 2015

New research gives insight to how colder offices are making us fatter.

Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham campus just posted the results of a study where they observed 20 young white collar workers in rooms with different temperatures. Workers were placed in rooms with either a 68 to 72 degree Fahrenheit range ( 20 to 22 degrees Celsius) or a much warmer 78-80 degree Fahrenheit range (25.5 to 26.6 degrees Celsius).

What researchers discovered was that after accounting for age, BMI, and gender differences, for every temperature increase of 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), the office workers consumed 85.9 fewer calories.  In simple terms, this means being cold was strongly associated with a higher consumption of food.

You’d be surprised just how much these unconsciously consumed calories add up. Chilly employees are more likely to get food items such as hot cocoa or lattes, which may not be that fattening in themselves, but are often overloaded with sugar and other ingredients with empty calories.

On the flip side, another set of studies posits that being cold actually helps you burn off calories by raising your basal metabolism. So theoretically, a colder office can make you slimmer, all other things being equal — but only if you don’t fall into the trap of eating more.

Foods roughly equivalent to 80-100 calories include:

  • One large egg
  • Half a medium baked potato
  • 2 oz. of lean beef
  • 13 almonds
  • An oatmeal cookie
  • 3 tablespoons of hummus
  • Half a cup of yoghurt
  • One hotdog, no buns, no dressing.
  • One bottle of beer

Here are more foods in that range.

Over the course of a working week, the increase of just 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) can easy translate into well over a full meal’s worth of calories that you wouldn’t otherwise have consumed. Over the course of year, the increase can be quite substantial and increase the chances of your employees succumbing to obesity-related concerns, or at least to size 45 pants.

What do you think of the study? Tell us in the comments below.

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Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.