Type 2 diabetes, but not obesity, prevalence is positively associated with ambient temperature

John R. Speakman, Sahar Heidari-Bakavoli

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number30409
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB13030000), the National Science foundation of China (microevolution program NSFC91431102) and the 1000 talents program. We are grateful to members of the Molecular Energetics group in Beijing and the Energetics group in Aberdeen, UK for valuable discussion of the data and analysis. All data analysed in this paper are already available in the public domain.


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