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Do Hot Drinks Really Keep You Warm?

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As the temperatures steadily drop outside, you'll slowly be swapping out your shorts for sweaters, switching your air conditioner off and your pulling your fleece heated blanket on, and trading your iced coffee and tea for warmer beverages. There's no denying that a hot cup of cocoa is comforting on a chilly night, but are these drinks actually keeping you toasty, or is it all in your imagination?

The Warming Effect
From first sip of that spiced chai or decadent hazelnut latté, you feel the heat instantly. This sensation only lasts for a few moments, which is why it's only effective as long as you keep intermittently drinking. Real Simple magazine explained that this is because the liquid cannot actually elevate your internal body temperature - but it can give your hands and stomach a fleeting feeling of warmth. Michael Cirigliano, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Real Simple that it's actually a good thing that these drinks can't significantly raise your body temperature, as that could potentially pose health risks.

So if these concoctions don't actually warm you up, how can one explain the sensation you get when you're sipping on them?

Jeremy Smith, an internist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, in Madison, explained to Real Simple that it could possibly be a placebo effect - in other words, you're toasty because you know a hot beverage is supposed to make you feel that way. Moreover, Cirigliano noted that your mouth is one of the most sensitive areas. Thus, when hot liquid passes through it, you can feel the heat throughout your entire body.

A Cool Conundrum
There's no reason to wait until winter to enjoy a steaming cup of cocoa or herbal tea, either. Did you know that these beverages may actually help you to cool down on a hot, dry day?

Ollie Jay, a researcher at University of Ottawa's School of Human Kinetics, conducted a study on this phenomenon. According to Smithsonian magazine, what he discovered is that a hot drink can actually accelerate the rate at which you sweat, which then evaporates, potentially lowering body heat. The scientists at his Thermal Ergonomics Lab believe this is because the thermosensors that line the mouth and throat may be what triggers the sweating response.