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Levi Brown

Q. Does a Hot Drink Actually Make You Warmer?
Sarah Brittain
Kensington, Connecticut

A. For just a few seconds. A cup of hot chocolate creates a fleeting feeling of warmth in your hands and stomach but not a change in your internal temperature—which is a good thing: Maintaining a stable body temperature is essential to having healthy organ function and a steady heartbeat, says Michael Cirigliano, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. If you did raise your temperature—say, by sitting in a very hot sauna for hours—you could suffer dehydration and even brain injury.

So why does a steaming mug of cocoa make you feel so toasty? “It could be the placebo effect,” says Jeremy Smith, an internist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, in Madison. “You feel warmer because you think the drink is supposed to warm you.” It’s all in your head, literally: “Your mouth is among the most sensitive parts of your body,” says Cirigliano, and the hot liquid in that sensitive area gives you the impression that you’re heating up. (Also, chocolate really does make everything more bearable.)

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