Sunday, November 9, 2008

What else can make you fat?

Eat less food; do more exercise. Boring as it sounds, we are told that is the key to weight loss. Who willingly enjoys eating less food? History tells us that humans really don’t like to change their eating habits, or any habit really. Which means they prefer not to increase their energy expenditure either, as that means more walking, going to the gym, and even possibly sweating.

Climate change is good for you
Twenty scientists pooled their expertise and the results from around the world to present an argument that if we focus solely on food and exercise in weight control, we have missed other aspects of life that can make us fat.

Climate change may be bad for the environment, but it is great for the waistline. What is the temperature of your house, your vehicle and your office? Many people live at 25ºC (77ºF) all year round. You only need a jacket to wear to get from one climate-controlled venue to another. At 25ºC you will feel very comfortable. Experiencing cold or hot makes your body work and burn energy (kilojoules/Calories). Shivering and sweating both require “work” from the body. There is suggestive evidence that when you feel hot, you also eat less food.

The study in the International Journal of Obesity reports that the average temperature in an UK home rose from 13ºC/55ºF in 1970 to 18ºC/64ºF in 2000. Some Australians will remember having four-eighty air-conditioning in your car in the 60s and 70s. Now every car has “air”. (Four-eighty air-con? Wind down four windows and drive at 80 km/h for a cooling effect).

Quit campaign fattens you up
It is well known that smokers can gain a few kilos when they quit. Conversely, some young women are known to smoke to dampen their appetite. US scientists have estimated that smoking cessation is responsible for 25% of the increase in chubby men and 17% of the extra plump ladies out there. One wonders if some people have a brutal choice: smoke or be fat.

Sleep it off
In 1908, it is estimated that the average adult got nine hours of snooze each night. Now that figure is believed to be closer to seven hours, meaning that we have gone from 40 winks down to 31.1 winks. The authors refer to studies revealing that the less sleep you get, the larger your girth, and this goes for both kids and adults. Sleep deprivation appears to influence hormonal levels involved in weight control, such as higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite. So, next time your partner calls out “Hey, lazy, gedowdabed”, you could remind them of your weight control program.

Wait, there’s more…
The authors offer many other reasons for increased body mass over the years, including Mum’s age. Women are delaying having children until their late 20s or early 30s. Every 5 years later in Mum’s life means a 14% increased chance of having a child who becomes obese.

Even if any of these factors has only a very small effect then, coupled with those two choccy biscuits for morning tea, they could be making a big difference to whether you accumulate fat cells or reduce their size.

Reference: International Journal of Obesity 2006; 30: 1585-1594

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