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Do Hot Drinks Cool You Down?

Do Hot Drinks Cool You Down?

My father tortured his children with logic. Case in point: on hot summer days, when we were bordering on heatstroke, my father liked to urge us to drink something hot, rather than cold, to provide cool relief to our boiling bodies. As a child, a hot child mind you, this is not the sort of logic you really wanted to hear. Still my father contended that drinking a hot beverage would more effectively cool you down than drinking an ice-cold soda, and there is science to prove it. Needless to say we were not swayed by his insistence, nor his faith in science.

It wasn’t until years on, when I visited India, that I realized my father had the right idea. In the heat of the day, Indians would routinely “take tea” even though the ambient temperature was around 34 C. I tried it, and while it felt counterintuitive to be pouring hot liquid down your gullet when the rubber was melting on the bottom of your sneakers, it kind of worked. And beyond the folktale aspect of hot drink for a hot day, there is indeed science that backs it up. NPR recently ran a report looking into this phenomenon and, while a glass of iced tea feels a lot more natural, drinking hot tea on a hot day actually cools your body more effectively.

NPR reporter Joe Palca spoke with Peter McNaughton, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge on the subject. It turns out that there are nerves in our tongue and mouth wired with receptors. While there are all kinds of receptors in your mouth, your tongue has a particular receptor that is wired to respond specifically to heat. “The hot drink somehow has an effect on your systemic cooling mechanisms, which exceeds its actual effect in terms of heating your body,” says McNaughton. So in essence, drinking hot tea on a hot tea makes you temporarily hotter, but it also starts you sweating and, in a respect, over compensates for the heat by throwing your systemic cooling mechanism in full swing. Go figure?

Does anyone routinely drink hot when the thermometer is high? Does it work for you? If drinking hot when the weather is sweltering works to cool you down, does drinking hot when it is cold make you colder?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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1:10AM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

The hot drink opens your pores up more, allowing to cool off in the hot weather.

Eating spicy food in hot weather also helps feel cooler, because it brings your body temperature higher. Because your body temp is closer to the higher heat, you actually don't feel as hot.

Just the same as in cold weather, eat bland foods, to keep your temp down. The frozen tundra won't feel nearly as cold.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting, I have heard this one for years but still drink cool or cold drinks when it is hot and hot drinks when it is warm, but have often had hot coffee on hot days and cold drinks on cold days. Have to admit when it is -40 a hot cup of chocolate tastes really good or hot coffee and tea. Guess it is more of a comfort drink, but so very warming and tasty!

4:45AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

thanks for sharing

9:24AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

I'm sticking with what my body gravitates too, and it says 'cool is good', to drink and to sit in, or just stick your feet in.

2:08AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012


10:44PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

I absolutely agree!

10:45PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Cool! I'll have to try this when the temperature rockets back up to 100 by the end of the week! :/

10:33PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Makes perfect sense to me. Bring your body temperature down and you'll feel the outside temperature even hotter. The Chinese have discovered this a long time ago.

8:41AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

not hot but I drink worm water when it is hot out. I do not cool it with or in ice just leave my water bollt in the shade and drink it worm. all you really need is wet not cold.

11:18AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Hmmmm - every morning, even when it's already 90 in the AM, I drink a big, piping hot mug of coffee in between sips of my frozen protein/berry shake. My poor body is probably screaming "What the hell?" :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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