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On Heat And Hot Drinks

Recently, Peter O'Dowd of the Fronteras Desk interviewed some people at Arizona State University for "man on the street" (sorry, "person on the street") reaction to the blisteringly awful heat wave we've been suffering through, and what they do to cope. Quoth one William Kennedy: "[I] drink hot coffee. It regulates your body temperature."


I've heard from fellow runners that room temperature beverages are easier for your body to absorb -- meaning, don't take an ice-cold bottle of water when you go for a jog so you can more effectively hydrate. But I've never heard that the temperature of your drink can regulate your actual body temperature.


During the summer, I buy iced coffee at Starbucks when I pay a visit to everyone's favorite green mermaid. But if I brew at home or work, I drink it hot, regardless the time of year. I'm too lazy to make my own iced coffee. (Just being honest here.)

I don't really let the outside weather change my habits too much anyway. I'm happy to eat a bowl of hot soup for lunch, even when it's 115 degrees outside. Who cares? I'm in an air conditioned office. And I've been known to bust out a cardigan or a sweater vest when I know I'll be in the office all day. Again, who cares? The only one who usually gives me guff is Mark Moran, our Associate GM for News, but that's just because we're locked in an ongoing battle over who has the more awesome vests.

I did some cursory Googling to see if there's anything to back up the idea that a hot drink regulates the body’s temperature. On NPR's blog "The Salt," science correspondent Joe Palca tackles this very issue. Palca got some guidance from a University of Cambridge neuroscientist, who passed along the following nugget of info:

"There are all sorts of receptors in all sorts of nerves, but the nerves in the tongue have a lot of one particular receptor that responds to heat. It's called the TRPV1 receptor, if anyone wants to know.

So when you eat or drink something hot, these receptors get that heat signal, and that tells the nerve to let the brain know what's going on.

When the brain gets the message "It's hot in here," it turns on the mechanism we have to cool ourselves off: sweating."
So there you go -- if a blog says, it then it's true!

Okay, maybe not. There is a fair bit of debate about this on the interweb machine. Some argue that the temperature of what you drink doesn't matter, it's just important to increase fluid consumption when the mercury rises. Others argue that drinking too much coffee can cause dehydration. But there is some scientific -- and lots of anecdotal -- evidence to back this idea up. Apparently, drinking hot tea during the summer in India is widespread.

What do you think? Have you heard this advice before?