Obesity prevalence continues to rise world wide, despite best intentions to reverse this trend. Why? And what does this have to do with New Year’s Resolutions??
Three Perspective articles in the journal Obesity give viewpoints on why obesity is on the rise:
1. Question: Is a change in our consumption of carbs, fat, or protein in particular responsible for the obesity epidemic?
Answer: No. The problem is with the total increase in calories consumed, not changes in consumption of a particular macronutrient per se. We eat more calories in current times likely for a number of reasons:
- changes in the quantity and quality of the food supply, with a drastic increase in consumption of highly processed foods (often high in sugar and fat)
- less home cooking
- more snacking
- bigger portions
2. Question: Do we exercise less?
Answer: No. But we do have much less occupational (work-related) activity. In 2006, only 20% of American jobs required high levels of physical activity – compare this to the 1960s when over 50% of jobs required levels of physical activity that meet current daily physical activity goals.
3. Question: Are there societal factors besides more food and less need for activity that have contributed to obesity?
Answer: Yes. These factors may include:
- poor sleep hygiene
- existing in neutral temperatures (think heating and A/C) – our metabolic rate is lowest at these comfortable indoor temperatures
- spending hours in front of screens (which is associated with increased appetite and less activity)
- exposure to chemicals in our environment
- medications that cause weight gain (find a list, with alternatives that do not cause weight gain, here)
- economic disparity (unhealthy food is often cheaper)
- unhealthy gut bacteria (microbiome)
- smoking cessation (weight gain often ensues – but I emphasize that smoking cessation is still strongly recommended. Also, smoking actually increases the risk of abdominal obesity – more on this here)
- increased atmospheric CO2 (a rather creative hypothesis that higher CO2 leads to acidification of our oceans, which may shift organismal pH, which may lead to increased secretion of the hormone orexin in our brains, which promotes eating and wakefulness)
So, in these lists, we find some factors that are outside of our control, but several others that each of us could potentially change or improve upon. Consider if there are a few on this list that could be collected into a 2019 New Year’s Resolution!
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