The Claim: Men and Women Differ in Their Tolerance to Cold

The New York Times

Health

Published: October 26, 2009

THE FACTS Over the years, scientists have sought to determine whether tolerance to cold is at all influenced by gender. Some researchers speculate that men, generally speaking, should have a higher tolerance, resulting from a greater ratio of body mass to surface area, more heat-generating muscle and a higher metabolism. But the science is not so clear-cut.

One study in The Lancet looked at 219 people of all ages and found that the female subjects averaged higher core temperatures (97.8 degrees Fahrenheit versus 97.4 degrees) but colder hand temperatures (87.2 degrees versus 90 degrees). That could indicate a better ability to conserve body heat and protect vital organs. But less blood flow to the extremities would also mean a greater feeling of cold.

Then again, studies in which men and women are immersed in cold water have found that the body’s reaction depends primarily on size and body fat. In other words, a man and a woman of equal size and body fat would show no physiological difference in their response.

Some studies also indicate that women’s perceptions of cold can vary during the menstrual cycle, with body temperatures rising and falling. But that too is widely debated.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.