Florida is a popular retirement destination, but if you want to live a long and healthy life, it’s better to find a cooler place to live. That’s because science links colder temperatures to better health and a longer lifespan.
For those who already live in the “sunshine state” and other warm southern or western states there’s good news. You don’t have to head to a colder climate to add years to your life.
Scientists are investigating a new way to live in a warm state and still take advantage of the “cold weather effect” to stave off illness and live longer.
Here’s the story…
Science has long shown that a lower body temperature prolongs the life of cold-blooded creatures like worms, flies, and fish. That’s because their body temperature fluctuates with the temperature of their environment.
Surprisingly, the same phenomenon also applies to mammals. Mammals maintain a body temperature within a narrow range no matter how cold or warm their environment is. When scientists began manipulating body temperature with laboratory animals, they made an exciting discovery.
In laboratory mice, a tiny 0.9° F drop in body temperature significantly extended their lives!
While humans live too long to demonstrate longevity benefits from a lower body temperature, several studies indicate that we too could be positively affected by a lower body temperature.
Lower body temperature and lower mortality
One very large study found participants with a lower core body temperature enjoyed significantly lower mortality over 25 years of follow-up. Another study containing 18,630 individuals concluded that “the results are consistent with low body temperature as a biomarker for longevity.”
The reason some people are internally cooler is because body temperature is variable.
Although we were taught that 98.6 is normal, this originated from a study performed in the 19th century. Normal body temperature can vary between 97.7 and 98.6 degrees during the day and drop to 96.8 during sleep.
Up until now, the reason behind the longevity benefit of a cooler body temperature could only be speculated upon, but two separate research groups have come up with some answers.
Cooler temperature clears away rogue proteins
Accumulation of intracellular damage from harmful protein deposits is an almost universal hallmark of aging, contributing to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, immune system problems and cancer. This protein accumulation is seen in an extreme form in diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and Huntington’s disease where the protein deposits form in brain cells and damage the body’s ability to function.
A research team at the University of Cologne in Germany, carried out experiments with both a worm called C. elegans and cultivated human cells that carried genes for these brain diseases. In both models, cold temperatures activated a cellular cleansing mechanism that broke down and cleared away these deposits.
The power of proteasomes
To delve more deeply into this amazing mechanism, researchers looked at the impact of cold temperatures on the activity of proteasomes, complex proteins involved in cellular cleansing.
When working normally, proteasomes remove damaged proteins from cells. Of course, with age, proteasomes don’t work as well. However, the researchers discovered that in moderately colder conditions proteasomes resumed their normal function in both the worm and human cell models by stimulating a proteasome activator called PA28y/PSME3.
“Taken together,” said senior author David Vilchez, “these results show how over the course of evolution, cold has preserved its influence on proteasome regulation – with therapeutic implications for aging and aging-associated diseases.”
Lack of special protein can mimic cold weather conditions in cells
Meanwhile, researchers at Washington State University have also been carrying out experiments with C. elegans and have come up with some novel findings of their own. Their work is among the first to suggest that it may be possible to artificially lower body temperature without lowering the temperature in the environment and as a result, experience health and longevity benefits.
For example, their research shows that a colder climate extends lifespan because of a nervous system protein called NPR-8 that controls the expression of collagens, the primary building block of skin, bone, and connective tissue in many animals.
NPR8 in the worm is similar to NPR-8 proteins found in other species, including humans.
During their study, the researchers observed that worms lacking NPR-8 had fewer skin wrinkles as they aged. They also made the unexpected discovery that these mutant worms kept at a warm temperature of 77° F had increased collagen expression and lived longer than wild-type worms.
The researchers believe that the lack of NPR-8 positively affected collagen expression and boosted the animals’ resistance to stressful conditions such as excessive heat. Finding ways to harness collagen expression by manipulating nervous system proteins could therefore slow down aging and increase lifespan without having to move to a colder climate.
Senior author Yiyong Liu commented: “We have found that warm temperatures leading to short lifespan is…a regulated process controlled by the nervous system. Our findings mean that down the road, it may be possible to intervene in that process to extend human lifespan.”
I’m not surprised at the findings linking a cooler body temperature to longevity. We’ve long reported on the benefits of a cold burst of water—think polar plunge, ice bath or a quick cold-shower—on the immune system when it comes to fighting illnesses such as cancer.
We’ve also shared the health benefits of cold weather exercise. For example, it turns out that exercising regularly in cold temperatures burns more calories. A study found that exercising in cold temperatures can increase the production of brown fat, the fat that burns calories, by 45 percent and boost overall metabolism significantly. This is good news for those who tend to pile on the pounds during the winter months due to lower activity levels and eating more comfort foods during holiday celebrations.
Now, I wouldn’t up and move from a warm climate just because of this research. However, it would be wise to consider safe, practical ways to periodically cool down your body temperature in an effort to improve your overall health and longevity.
As more research in this area becomes available, I’ll report back.
The Aging Defeated Team