WINTER IN SPAIN: Science explains how the cold affects us

CHILLY: Women are more sensitive to the cold than men

As temperatures plummet in Spain and with the month of February incoming, the cold is truly upon us. While there are many old wives’ tales surrounding the cold, a lot of popular beliefs can be scientifically proven.

People like to say that the body loses heat through the head. In reality, heat can be lost through any part of the body that is exposed to cold, the head usually being of them. And, although it may not seem like it, the head represents around 10 per cent of the body’s surface and weight. This is the reason why it is important to wear hats on very cold days, especially for people with little hair.

Hands and feet can get cold very quickly as they are the most peripheral areas of the body. In low temperatures, our body prioritises pumping blood to the vital organs, leaving our extremities the last to receive warm blood. However, unless a person is exposed to extreme temperatures, this coldness does not negatively affect health or the immune system.

A big number of people frequently question if the cold is slimming. In fact, the cold does actually cause the body to burn more calories. When the temperature drops, the body has to generate heat by burning the so called ‘brown fat’. If we do not replenish that fat, it will result in weight loss. Nonetheless, nature is wise and it reacts to the change by increasing the feeling of hunger in the cold winter months.

If you ever wondered if a thin person is more sensitive to the cold, the answer is yes. Subcutaneous fat acts as an insulator, meaning a person with low body fat will be more exposed to the chill. Women are also more sensitive to low temperatures due to factors such as lower muscle mass than men, a faster metabolism and female hormones. When the temperature drops, women’s blood vessels close faster while in men the mechanism is much slower. This causes women’s skin to feel colder much before men suffer the same feeling.

Luckily, our body is very adaptive. Just like other living beings, we can easily get accustomed to our environment in order to survive. The same happens throughout winter and, as winter progresses, we become less sensitive to the cold.