The physiological function of non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) has been investigated in recent years, and some studies have discussed the importance of NST with respect to human cold adaptation. The present study aimed to clarify individual and seasonal variations in NST that occurred as a result of mild cold exposure.
Seventeen male university students participated in the present study during summer and winter. The climate chamber used was programmed so that ambient temperature dropped from 28°C to 16°C over an 80-min period. Physiological parameters of test subjects were recorded during the experiments.
Increases in oxygen intake (VO2) during cold exposure were significantly greater without shivering in winter than they were in summer. Respiratory exchange ratio (RER) was significantly lower during thermoneutral baseline and cold exposure in winter than it was during the same periods in summer. In addition, there was a significant negative correlation between ΔVO2 and ΔRER.
Increase of VO2 without shivering indicated increase of NST, and decrease of RER depends on the metabolization of fat in winter. These results suggested that NST activity was activated by seasonal acclimatization, and individual variation of NST depends on individual variation of fat metabolism.