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Chilling Secrets of Longevity: The Impact of Temperature on Human Lifespan and Health

Yesterday I opened my refrigerator to check what I can use for cooking my dinner. I had lettuce, spring onion, baby spinach and carrots. All looked fresh. I found myself thanking modern science that allows vegetables to be kept fresh for so many days. Without refrigerator, these vegetables would have gone bad a long time ago.

And then a thought emerged- I immediately noted on my cell phone notepad that I need to explore impact of temperature on longevity of human life. And since past 48 hours I have been voraciously reading on this topic.

Does lowering of temperature enhance health and extend lifespan?

The answer seems to be YES!

Amongst various life-forms on earth, lifespan has been demonstrated to increase by temperature reduction.(1) For example, C. elegans lives for a shorter period of time when shifted from the standard temperature (20 °C) to warmer temperatures. But when it is exposed to low temperature (15 °C) it results in a remarkable lifespan extension.  Similarly, if body temperature of rodents is increased by 0.5 °C through exposure to hot climate, it leads to shortening of lifespan. But, a mild decrease of 0.5 °C in body temperature prolongs lifespan in mice. These observations support the theory that temperature reduction promotes longevity. (2)

Hibernation is a natural state of “meditation” assumed by certain animals during winter. During hibernation, body temperature drops significantly. Studies have shown that hibernating animals live longer than similar sized non- hibernating animals. Also- length of life directly correlates with length of hibernation. (3)

Based on these findings, some scientists believe that people living in colder climates might have longer lifespan compared to those living in hotter regions. (4)

If this is true, then it seems our ancestors knew about this secret since several thousands of years. Several ancient Hindu and Buddhist scriptures describe this. Most accomplished sages who lived for many centuries in India had gone up the Himalayas to meditate. The Buddhist monks in Tibet meditate in monasteries located high above the sea level- and they live pretty long lives. (5)

The Science Behind Impact of Temperature on Human Lifespan

From the standpoint of laws defined by Physics and Chemistry, it does seem that lower temperature would support longer lifespan.

Aging results from inflammation. Inflammation is a form of biological heat that slowly accumulates and erodes our biological systems. Laws of thermodynamics reveal that heat increases entropy in the system. More the entropy, more will be chaos. Aging can be seen as continuous increase in entropy. To decelerate aging, one must reduce entropy- and this can be achieved by lowering temperature. (6)

Similarly, everything in our body is governed by chemical reactions. At lower temperature rate of chemical reactions go down. (7) Slower pace of biochemical reactions, mean lower levels of inflammation- which would translate into longer lifespan.

When a car runs, several components of the car face forces of friction. Friction leads to wear and tear. Wear and tear leads to damage. As the car keeps running, damage keeps accumulating. If nothing is done, eventually the extent of damage becomes such that the car can no longer run. We can extend this life of car by regular maintenance. Servicing car in an automobile garage regularly after regular interval of certain miles extends life of car, as the mechanics repair the incurred damage. Ignoring such regular maintenance can easily lead to accumulation of damages that can be beyond repair after some point.

Faster the car runs, more is the wear and tear. Such “overused” car requires more frequent and thorough schedule of service and maintenance.

And, in spite of regular servicing, no car can really last infinitely long. A car generally lasts for around 250,000- 300,000 miles. With regular and thorough servicing and maintenance some cars can last even longer. In each servicing, most damages are repaired- but some remain. These residual damages keep accumulating. Eventually the accumulated damage incurred due to wear and tear reaches such a stage that the car can no longer run.

Life can be imagined like a car. Each breath, each movement, even each thought leads to “biological friction”. This friction leads to a heat that we call as inflammation. So, inflammation is the heat that causes damage. Faster the movements, more is the fire of inflammation. Human body comes with in-built repair mechanisms. These repair mechanisms work best when body slows down. That’s the sole purpose of sleep. Sleep is the “repair- mode” of our body. Sleep is a maintenance mode that is “forced” upon us. Most of us automatically feel sleepy at night. It’s nature’s way to force maintenance. However, if the daily inflammation has reached a critical mass, and the damages need to be repaired immediately, you will immediately feel exhausted and sleepy.

When we are young, our repair mechanisms are extremely active and powerful. Whatever damage occurs via inflammations gets repaired easily when we are young. But remember- the fire of inflammation burns  those repair mechanisms as well. Eventually, over a period of time, inflammation starts burning out these repair systems as well. Hence, as we grow older, our repair mechanisms also slowly become sluggish and less efficient. Inflammation keeps rising and so do the damages incurred. And one day- these damages are just too much for life to sustain. That’s how we die.

How To Lower Body Temperature and Increase Lifespan?

Just like the car, more the pace, more will be the inflammation. Just like the car, we all have average lifespan. If everything goes well, we would normally survive for around 80 to 90 years. But, there are few who survive way beyond 100 years. Scientists have been thoroughly studying such long living individuals. There is a whole new segment of pharmaceutical industry that is working relentlessly to find out how longevity can be improved and how immortality can be achieved.

However, since thousands of years, cultures have been aware of practices that can significantly extend lifespan. Ancient scriptures are full of tales showing how few sages accomplished living several hundred years by meditating. Of course, in this “rational” era of 21st century, these tales from scriptures would be easily disregarded as myths and folklores. But the science of fasting and meditation cannot be denied. And all those practices have one principle in common- COOL DOWN!

Just like the car, more frequent and thorough the maintenance schedules are, more will be the lifespan.

Fasting and meditation are two powerful “COOL- DOWN” techniques employed by almost all cultures to promote health. Each morsel of food we eat, leads to formation of energy. Issue is the even a little excess of energy produced will cause damage via the fire of inflammation. Hence, too cool down that fire, regular fasting is critical. And fasting decreases core body temperature. (8) (9) Read more on the science of fasting by clicking HERE.

Sleep means “NO MOVEMENT”. All systems slow down when we sleep. Body temperature drops when we sleep. (10) Classical meditation involves adopting a relaxed posture, and focusing on breath. Eventual aim is to be in a state where you get no thoughts. Meditation is like sleep – but without thoughts. This means “NO MOVEMENT” + “NO THOUGHTS” + “SLOW BREATHING”. Meditation is the most powerful way of cooling down and repairing your systems. Meditation does slow down heart rate, respiratory rate and decreases overall body temperature.

Both fasting and meditation lower body temperature. Sleep- the natural repair system- also lowers our body temperature.

What about exercise? I have written two articles that might guide you in the right direction. Click HERE and HERE to read those.

Concluding Remarks

I started this article with the observation that vegetables kept at lower temperature in a refrigerator remain fresh for several days. Vegetables like celery, lettuce, garlic ginger etc can be “immortalized” in a freezer and can be brought into life at a later date by planting into a warm moist soil. We saw evidences that suggest lower temperature might promote longevity. Now, there is a company that has really made a million dollar business out of this theory. Alcor Life Extension Foundation has a facility located within the deserts of Arizona, where around 200 people have had their bodies cryopreserved. These people had medical conditions that cannot be cured. By keeping these bodies below-freezing temperatures, Alcor believes, they would be able to restore life back in future when cure is available. (11)

This seems to be a page out of science fiction- but it does seem that low temperature holds the key to longevity.

After reading this article one may conclude that we must all then migrate to colder countries. However, such conclusion should come with some caution. Through successive generations, our individual genetics evolved mechanisms that optimized our ability to survive and flourish in the places where we are born. Hence, as a rule, we thrive the best in the place where our ancestors lived. But- with several decades of globalization- today these definitions of “place of origin” is becoming gray.

In conclusion, key to long life is to keep the body COOL. And this can be achieved by disciplined regular fasting and meditation.


  1. Conti, Bruno. “Considerations on Temperature, Longevity and Aging.” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences : CMLS, vol. 65, no. 11, June 2008, pp. 1626–30. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-008-7536-1.
  2. Lee, Hyun Ju, et al. “Cold Temperature Extends Longevity and Prevents Disease-Related Protein Aggregation through PA28γ-Induced Proteasomes.” Nature Aging, vol. 3, no. 5, 2023, pp. 546–66. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-023-00383-4.
  3. Keil, Gerald, et al. “Being Cool: How Body Temperature Influences Ageing and Longevity.” Biogerontology, vol. 16, no. 4, 2015, pp. 383–97. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-015-9571-2.
  4. Solis-Moreira, Jocelyn. “Love the Heat? Here’s Why Moving Somewhere Cold May Help You Live Longer.” Study Finds, 4 Apr. 2023, https://studyfinds.org/cold-help-you-live-longer/.
  5. “Siddhashrama.” Wikipedia, 16 July 2023. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Siddhashrama&oldid=1165588807.
  6. “21.1: Entropy Increases With Increasing Temperature.” Chemistry LibreTexts, 21 June 2014, https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Physical_and_Theoretical_Chemistry_Textbook_Maps/Physical_Chemistry_(LibreTexts)/21%3A_Entropy_and_the_Third_Law_of_Thermodynamics/21.01%3A_Entropy_Increases_With_Increasing_Temperature.
  7. Key, Jessie A. Factors That Affect the Rate of Reactions. Sept. 2014. opentextbc.ca, https://opentextbc.ca/introductorychemistry/chapter/factors-that-affect-the-rate-of-reactions/.
  8. Carrillo, Andres E., and Andreas D. Flouris. “Caloric Restriction and Longevity: Effects of Reduced Body Temperature.” Ageing Research Reviews, vol. 10, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 153–62. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2010.10.001.
  9. Heilbronn, Leonie K., et al. “Effect of 6-Month Calorie Restriction on Biomarkers of Longevity, Metabolic Adaptation, and Oxidative Stress in Overweight Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” JAMA, vol. 295, no. 13, Apr. 2006, pp. 1539–48. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.295.13.1539.
  10. Szymusiak, Ronald. “Body Temperature and Sleep.” Handbook of Clinical Neurology, vol. 156, 2018, pp. 341–51. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63912-7.00020-5.
  11. Magazine, Smithsonian, and Jacquelyne Germain. “200 Frozen Heads and Bodies Await Revival at This Arizona Cryonics Facility.” Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/200-frozen-heads-and-bodies-await-revival-at-this-arizona-cryonics-facility-180980981/. Accessed 14 Aug. 2023.

Dr Subir Roy

6 thoughts on “Chilling Secrets of Longevity: The Impact of Temperature on Human Lifespan and Health

  1. Interesting read. Focus more on cool down mechanisms like fasting and meditation. Thanks for sharing.

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