insulin sensitivity

Exciting new research suggests that exposing adults with Type 2 Diabetes to cold temperatures boosts insulin metabolism better than long-term changes to diet and exercise


A novel therapy may have the potential to improve the metabolic health of adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, the most common form of diabetes characterized by the body’s ineffective use of insulin to break down glucose. Mild cold exposure, or cold acclimation, has been observed to trigger a specific type of fat (BAT) in humans to breakdown glucose for heat, spurring the interest of researchers to study the effect of cold temperatures on weight loss and metabolic regulation. A research group in the Netherlands has reported that acute cold acclimation improves insulin sensitivity in subjects with Type 2 Diabetes.

In their study, participant glucose metabolism by BAT was monitored by researchers using positron emission tomography before and after exposure to a 14-15°C environment for 10 consecutive days. It was discovered that cold acclimation on average increased whole-body insulin sensitivity by 43%, a marked improvement over traditional diet and exercise strategies used to improve or treat Type 2 Diabetes. The treatment may also cause skeletal muscles to be more effective at removing glucose from the blood and storing it for later energy use, but this response may be due to indirect factors not examined in the study.

Although it was not reported how long the observed effects lasted after treatment, it was concluded that short-term cold acclimation had overall positive effects on insulin metabolism, making it a promising therapy for Type 2 Diabetes.



Hanssen MJ, Hoeks J, Brans B, van der Lans AA, Schaart G, van den Driessche JJ, Jörgensen JA, Boekschoten MV, Hesselink MK, Havekes B, Kersten S, Mottaghy FM, van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, Schrauwen P. Short-term cold acclimation improves insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nature Medicine, August 2015 Volume 21, Issue 8, Pages 863-865.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at





Written by Fiona Wong, PhD

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