Passive exposure to heat improves glucose metabolism in overweight humans

Hannah Pallubinsky*, Esther Phielix, Bas Dautzenberg, Gert Schaart, Niels J. Connell, Vera de Wit-Verheggen, Bas Havekes, Marleen A. van Baak, Patrick Schrauwen, W. D. van Marken Lichtenbelt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aim Heat exposure has been indicated to positively affect glucose metabolism. An involvement of heat shock protein 72 (HSP72) in the enhancement of insulin sensitivity upon heat exposure has been previously suggested. Here, we performed an intervention study exploring the effect of passive heat acclimation (PHA) on glucose metabolism and intracellular (a) HSP72 concentrations in overweight humans.

Methods Eleven non-diabetic overweight (BMI 27-35 kg/m(2)) participants underwent 10 consecutive days of PHA (4-6 h/day, 34.4 +/- 0.2 degrees C, 22.8 +/- 2.7%RH). Before and after PHA, whole-body insulin sensitivity was assessed using a one-step hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamp, skeletal muscle biopsies were taken to measure intracellular iHSP72, energy expenditure and substrate oxidation were measured using indirect calorimetry and blood samples were drawn to assess markers of metabolic health. Thermophysiological adaptations were measured during a temperature ramp protocol before and after PHA.

Results Despite a lack of change in iHSP72, 10 days of PHA reduced basal (9.7 +/- 1.4 pre- vs 8.4 +/- 2.1 mu mol center dot kg(-1) center dot min(-1) post-PHA, P = .038) and insulin-stimulated (2.1 +/- 0.9 pre- vs 1.5 +/- 0.8 mu mol center dot kg(-1) center dot min(-1) post-PHA, P = .005) endogenous glucose production (EGP) and increased insulin suppression of EGP (78.5 +/- 9.7% pre- vs 83.0 +/- 7.9% post-PHA, P = .028). Consistently, fasting plasma glucose (6.0 +/- 0.5 pre- vs 5.8 +/- 0.4 mmol/L post-PHA, P = .013) and insulin concentrations (97 +/- 55 pre- vs 84 +/- 49 pmol/L post-PHA, P = .026) decreased significantly. Moreover, fat oxidation increased, and free fatty acids as well as cholesterol concentrations and mean arterial pressure decreased after PHA.

Conclusion Our results show that PHA for 10 days improves glucose metabolism and enhances fat metabolism, without changes in iHSP72. Further exploration of the therapeutic role of heat in cardio-metabolic disorders should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13488
Number of pages13
JournalActa Physiologica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • fat metabolism
  • glucose homeostasis
  • heat acclimation
  • liver metabolism
  • substrate oxidation
  • thermoregulation
  • HSP72

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