17 Jul Evidence for age-related differences in heat acclimatisation responsiveness
Notley SR, Meade RD, Akerman AP, Poirier MP, Boulay P, Sigal RJ, Flouris AD, Kenny GP. Evidence for age-related differences in heat acclimatisation responsiveness. Exp Physiol. 2020 Sep;105(9):1491-1499. doi: 10.1113/EP088728. Epub 2020 Jul 17. PMID: 32592411.
New findings: What is the central question of this study? Repeated heat exposure during the summer months can enhance heat loss in humans (seasonal heat acclimatisation), but does the magnitude of that enhancement differ between young and older adults when assessed during passive heat exposure? What is the main finding and its importance? While seasonal heat acclimatisation enhanced evaporative heat loss (i.e. sweating) in both young and older adults, those improvements led to a greater reduction in body heat storage in older adults. These outcomes indicate that heat acclimatisation may confer greater thermoregulatory benefits with increasing age.
Abstract: Repeated heat exposure throughout summer can enhance heat loss in humans (seasonal heat acclimatisation), although the effect of ageing on those improvements remains unclear. We therefore sought to assess thermoregulatory function in young and older adults during environmental heat exposure prior to and following seasonal heat acclimatisation, hypothesizing that the magnitude of adaptation would be greater in older relative to young adults.
To achieve this, 14 young (19-27 years) and 10 older adults (55-72 years), who resided in a temperate humid-continental climate, completed a 3 h resting heat exposure (44°C, ∼30% relative humidity) in the winter-spring months as part of a larger investigation (pre-acclimatisation), before being re-evaluated using the same heat stress test following the summer months (post-acclimatisation). Whole-body dry and evaporative heat exchange, and metabolic rate were measured throughout using direct and indirect calorimetry (respectively), and used to quantify body heat storage (metabolic rate + dry heat gain – evaporative heat loss). Evaporative heat loss increased in both groups following acclimatisation, but those improvements led to a decrease in body heat storage in older (mean difference (95% CI); 213 (295, 131) kJ; P < 0.001), but not young adults (-25 (-94, 44) kJ; P = 0.458).
Thus, body heat storage was greater in older compared to young adults before (222 (123, 314) kJ; P < 0.001), but not following acclimatisation (34 (-55, 123) kJ; P = 0.433). Although there is a need for larger and more controlled confirmatory studies, our findings indicate that seasonal heat acclimatisation may induce greater thermoregulatory adaptation in older compared to young adults.
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