Cold exposure stimulates energy expenditure and glucose disposal. If these factors play a significant role in whole body energy balance, and glucose homeostasis, it is predicted that both obesity and type 2 diabetes prevalence would be lower where it is colder. Previous studies have noted connections between ambient temperature and obesity, but the direction of the effect is confused. No previous studies have explored the link of type 2 diabetes to ambient temperature. We used county level data for obesity and diabetes prevalence across the mainland USA and matched this to county level ambient temperature data. Average ambient temperature explained 5.7% of the spatial variation in obesity and 29.6% of the spatial variation in type 2 diabetes prevalence. Correcting the type 2 diabetes data for the effect of obesity reduced the explained variation to 26.8%. Even when correcting for obesity, poverty and race, ambient temperature explained 12.4% of the variation in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, and this significant effect remained when latitude was entered into the model as a predictor. When obesity prevalence was corrected for poverty and race the significant effect of temperature disappeared. Enhancing energy expenditure by cold exposure will likely not impact obesity significantly, but may be useful to combat type 2 diabetes.
Speakman, J. R., & Heidari-Bakavoli, S. (2016). Type 2 diabetes, but not obesity, prevalence is positively associated with ambient temperature. Scientific Reports, 6, 1-9. . https://doi.org/10.1038/srep30409