Losing weight has always been a struggle, but a new study suggests that nowadays it may be even harder to shed a few pounds due to pollution and excessive stress.
In the study, the researchers looked at data on dietary patterns of U.S. citizens, which was collected from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey over a 10-year period. From 1971 to 2008, about 36,400 adults gave information about what they ate, and from 1998 to 2006, approximately 14,400 people gave information on how much they exercised. The people also reported their body mass index (BMI).
Researchers found that in 2006 someone who had the same calorie intake and exercised as much as someone in 1988, had a 2.3 higher body mass index. The results came as a surprise to Jennifer L. Kuk, an associate professor of human kinetics and health science at York University in Toronto.
Many of us believed that the reason why obesity rates had grown ever since 1980, was because people exercised less and ate more. However, the new findings suggest that there may be other factors that lead to people gaining more weight.
According to researchers, lack of sleep and more stress, as well as the exposure to industrial chemicals and pesticides, are some factors that contribute to weight gain. Also, people tend to have less healthy gut bacteria, they take more weight-gain related medication, and due to global warming and rising temperatures, people engage in less calorie-burning activities in order to maintain their body temperature.
“It [the study] seems to point to something either intrinsic in our environment or our bodies … that is more than obvious factors of calorie intake and expenditure,” Dr. Holly F. Lofton, director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, stated.
The reason why stress is linked to weight gain is because when people are stressed more stress hormones such as cortisol are produced, which alert the body to store fat. Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of ghrelin, a hormone that is known to increase the appetite. Also, by staying awake more hours people tend to eat more, Lofton says.
Lofton encourages people to keep track of their weight. If they see any major weight fluctuations, they should look at changes in their lives that might have influenced the weight loss or weight gain. By making sure they eat well and exercise a sufficient amount, people may be able to compensate for the lack of sleep, too much stress at work, or other factors of this nature.
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