Live cold, die old? Lower body temperature linked to a longer life

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WENZHOU, China — If you want to know how to live longer, the answer may literally be to chill out. A new study finds that body temperature can have a bigger impact on your lifespan than your metabolism.

An international team says their study examined the real-world connections to the phrase “live fast, die young.” As an expression, it has come to mean people who engage in risky lifestyles usually die younger than their peers. In biology, however, scientists say it actually refers to animals that have a higher metabolic rate dying sooner than those with a slower metabolism. Simply put, these species burn themselves out faster.

Unfortunately, this relationship between metabolism and longevity isn’t always so clear. Generally, people on a calorie-restrictive diet see their metabolism slow — thereby improving longevity. However, exercise is one of the most basic ways to help people live longer — but it also increases metabolism. So, what’s the real secret to living a long life?

Researchers say the key may be how changes in metabolism affect an individual’s body temperature. Typically, having a lower metabolic rate also lowers body temperature.

In the new study, researchers examined animals as the team pushed their metabolic rate and body temperature in opposite directions. To do this, they exposed mice and hamsters to high temperatures, causing their metabolisms to fall as their body temperatures went up.

“We found that exposing the rodents to these conditions shortened their lifespans. Lower metabolism didn’t lengthen their lives, but higher temperatures shortened it,” says Professor John R. Speakman from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology in a media release.

Stay cool, live longer

In the next step of the study, researchers used small fans to blow cool air over the animals living the high temps. Although this didn’t change their metabolism, researchers say it prevented the mice and hamsters from having a high body temperature. Under these conditions, the animals did not suffer from a shortened lifespan.

The study authors conclude that body temperature appears to have a much more important role in determining lifespan than metabolic rate — creating the saying “live cold, die old.”

“We separated the effect of body temperature on lifespan from metabolic rate in two species of small rodents exposed to high temperatures. We are excited about the findings, particularly that using small fans to blow air over the animals reversed the effect of high ambient temperature on lifespan by decreasing body temperature without changing metabolic rate,” adds Zhao Zhijun from Wenzhou University.

The study is published in the journal Nature Metabolism.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. If this is true , my lady friend should live to be 120 years old because she is too damn stingy to to use much heat in winter. Her dog threatens to call PETA on her.

  2. My normal body temperature has always been around 97°. Back when temperature screenings were mandatory, I had covid and a fever, but my temperature was “normal”, so I always passed their test. I probably spread covid, and their silly little screenings allowed it.

    Good times.

    1. You knew you had Covid as the person performed the temperature screening? Why would you subject someone else to that?

  3. If this is true… wouldn’t it follow that people who live in cold climates and are often exposed to and live in cold weather, would live longer? Seems like we would have noticed that already.

    1. I believe it is already known,the people in the Aleutians, Siberia and Mongols have very long lives.

    2. People in cold climates get less sunshine thus less vitamin(hormone) D. They also tend to eat less vegetables. These two things I guess would offset the benefits.

    3. no. your body normally maintains a constant temperature regardless of external environment. if anything cold weather forces your body to increase it’s metabolism to generate heat.

  4. This is old data to me, at least ten years ago, when I was putting it into practice.

  5. It is your civic duty to die sooner, not live longer sucking up government entitlement payments.

    The government medical system and old age benefits, which will pay you enough to eat dog food will see to it that you die on time.

  6. My normal body temperature is around 97.4 – if I get up to the so called ‘normal’ temp of 98.6, I have a slight fever. After reading this article, I’m wondering if my naturally lower temperature will help me live a bit longer.

  7. Not enough data? There are plenty of people in Africa who live to 100 and beyond, and many eskimos who barely make 65.

    1. There are many other factors which contributing to life span. Eskimos live in the extreme cold environment which normal humans do not inhabit. People in Africa who live longer are possibly due to their active life style and healthy diet if they are not affected by many diseases. You are implying extreme and rare cases. There are other factors like genes and food… the study only indicates the cases in general.

  8. My body temperature runs a full two points below normal. I keep the house at 60F during the winter and 62F during the summer. The electric bills suck more in the summer especially if you live in the south.

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