Temperature trivia - 7 things you didn't know about body temperature

4 min read
Sep 24, 2019
Vemund Kval Bakken
Vemund Kval
Chief Technical OfficerP
Vemund is the chief technology officer and co-founder for ONiO. He is responsible to set the long term technical direction and make sure that novel solutions are applied in our products. And make sure when ideas are novel enough that they are added to a growing IP portfolio.
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Temperature trivia - 7 things you didn't know about body temperature
Humans are homeothermic (warm-blooded) organisms. This means that unlike amphibians or reptiles, our bodies have an innate mechanism of temperature regulation (thermoregulation) to keep our internal temperatures constant, in spite of external variations.

The typical human body operates within a narrow range of 36.5–37.5 °C [97.7–99.5 °F]. This is the temperature range that is most optimal for all the biochemical processes involved in normal metabolism. But an individual’s temperature may, from moment to moment, vary based on a plethora of factors such as sex, state of consciousness, exercise, sickness/health, time of reproductive cycle etc.

Here are some lesser known facts about human body temperature that are sure to amaze you:

1. Women Are More Sensitive To The Cold Than Men

Although women actually have higher core temperatures than men, on average, the conventional wisdom that they tend to get cold more easily, actually has scientific credence. This is due to a number of factors - firstly, women have lower resting metabolic rates, compared to men. This is because, gram for gram, they tend to have lesser muscle mass than men.

When we are exposed to cold temperatures, blood rushes out of our extremities (e.g. hands, feet) to our core, in order to protect our organs and keep them warm. This process happens more rapidly in women, because women have a lower volume of blood than men. A study conducted by the University of Utah in 1998 demonstrated that women may have ears, feet and hands that are upto 3°C colder, on average, than men.

2. The Pinocchio Effect

Lying, believe it or not, causes your nose to heat up. Researchers at the University of Granada, in Spain, have shown that being dishonest, causes anxiety which in turn, causes the temperature of your nose and the muscles around the eye to increase by 0.6-1.2 °C. This incredible finding, to no one’s surprise, has been dubbed “The Pinocchio Effect” by the researchers. The research team has since used these findings to design a lie detection model based on thermography.

“an individual’s temperature may, from moment to moment, vary based on a plethora of factors such as sex, state of consciousness, exercise, sickness/health, time of reproductive cycle etc.”

3. Cooling Your Body Could Save Your Brain

In the period following conditions such as cardiac arrest, where blood flow to the brain is interrupted, the patient’s body is maintained at a lower temperature after resuscitation, in a process known as “Targeted Temperature Management”.

Evidence shows that inducing such therapeutic hypothermia maximises positive outcomes and prevents brain tissue from undergoing traumatic, reperfusion injury. Various methods such as ice water lavages, cooling catheters, cooling pads etc are used to induce the hypothermia. It is posited that the therapeutic effects are due to a decreased oxygen demand as well as a reduction in the amount of free radicals formed in the brain.

4. As You Get Older, You Get Colder

This finding is especially significant in a clinical setting, because what may be a seemingly innocuous temperature reading in most people, could indicate a fever (even a serious one), in elderly patients. This makes it all the more important to keep track of the constant variations and trends in body temperature, when managing the care of elderly patients. Relying on stand-alone readings, may be very misleading and may even prove to be fatal.

5. Cooler Environs Are Better For Sleep Quality

There is substantial evidence to show that sleeping in a room which is relatively cold (15-20°C) might do wonders for the quality of your sleep. Studies indicate that the cooler ambient temperature causes the temperature of the body to drop slightly, which is optimal for the production of the sleep hormone, Melatonin. The benefits of sleeping in a cooler room are that you fall asleep more quickly and feel more well rested, waking up. Risque though the idea may seem, this also means that there is a lot of credence to the health benefits ascribed to sleeping in the buff.

6. Algor Mortis

In the period immediately following death, the temperature of a corpse declines systematically at a fixed rate, until it reaches ambient temperature. This phenomenon, known as Algor Mortis (Latin: Coldness of Death) was first described by the English Chemist, Dr.John Davey, in 1839.

Although not 100% accurate, especially in extreme external temperatures, this allows doctors to estimate the time of death. Using the so called “Glaister Equation”, it is possible to calculate the approximate number of hours that have elapsed since the time of death.

7. Hot Peppers Can Help You Lose Weight

There is some research indicating that consuming chilli peppers may help you lose weight. Eating spicy foods such as cayenne peppers cranks up your body’s metabolic rate for up to thirty minutes after a meal. Chilli Peppers contain a chemical called “capsaicin”, which triggers a rise in the body’s temperature. This causes the body to expend energy in order to stabilise the temperature and bring it back to the baseline. This process is energy expensive and the body burns quite a few calories in order to cool you back down.

Additionally, studies also show that consuming hot peppers suppresses appetite and helps reduce food cravings, further aiding in attempts to stave off the kilos.