4 Unconventional Things You Didn’t Know Were Making You Fat

The human body is a strange and wondrous place. There are many reasons why a person might gain weight. Eating the wrong kind of food, the wrong amount of food, or not enough exercise are well established reasons. However, there are some no-so-common reasons that might play a role as well.

Road Traffic Noise

Exposure to a combination of road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise may pose the greatest risk of acquiring a spare tire — otherwise known as central obesity, and thought to be one of the most harmful types of fat deposition around the body. In a recent study researchers assessed how much road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise 5075 people living in five suburban and rural areas around Stockholm, Sweden, had been exposed to since 1999. The analysis indicated no link between road traffic noise and BMI. But there was an association between road traffic noise and waist size, with a 0.21 cm increase for every additional 5 dB increase in exposure, although this was only significant among women. Similarly, there was a link to waist:hip ratio, with a change of 0.16 for every 5 dB increase in noise exposure to road traffic; this association was stronger in men.

What gives? Noise exposure may be an important physiological stressor and bump up the production of the hormone cortisol, high levels of which are thought to have a role in fat deposition around the middle of the body, researchers suggest. Additionally, noise exposure might disrupt sleep, another known factor to contribute to weight gain.

Too Many Food Choices

A new study in mice by researchers in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine has shown that the environment in which a child lives may be an equal if not stronger force in determining obesity than their mother’s diet. Researchers found that having too many food choices increases the obesity problem. In fact, researchers found that having a choice of a high-fat and low-fat diet does not help — offspring in this situation tended to eat even more. Their findings were recently released in the journal Endocrinology. “We like variety,” said Deborah Good, an author of the paper and an associate professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech. “But when there is a choice, we eat more than when there is not any variety.” Moral of the story? Simple is better for our waistlines.

The Inability To Stay Warm

A new study suggests that a biological inability to create sufficient core body heat could be linked to the obesity epidemic. The study found that obesity is associated with a significant reduction of body core temperature during daytime hours. Journal Editor Francesco Portaluppi explains that the reduced ability of obese people to spend energy as heat compared to lean individuals could result in long term weight gain (about 2 kg (4.5 lb.)) per year, depending on the lifestyle. “Since body core temperature represents a marker of energy expenditure, results from this study suggest that a diurnal thermogenic handicap can play a crucial role in favoring weight gain in obese subjects,” said article co-author Pietro Cortelli, MD, Ph.D. The fix? Generate more body heat. And how does one do that? Exercise of course!

Environmental Pollution

A team of Spanish scientists, which includes several researchers from the University of Granada, has confirmed that there is a relation between the levels of certain environmental pollutants that a person accumulates in his or her body and their level of obesity. Subjects with more pollutants in their bodies tend to have higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The research has analyzed the levels of pollutants accumulated in adipose tissue (fat) in nearly 300 men and women, who were attended in the surgery services of two hospitals in the province of Granada (Spain). The substances analyzed, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), can remain in the environment for years, even decades, without degrading.

“Humans are exposed to POPs mainly through diet. Besides, POPs accumulate gradually in body fat, and this is the reason why the median levels in our study give us an idea of an individual’s accumulated exposition over a number of years,” says Juan Pedro Arrebola, the main author of the article. There is evidence that human exposure to certain chemical substances called “obesogenic” could favor the growth and proliferation of adipocytes (fat cells), and provoke therefore an increase in body fat.

Do your best to avoid exposing yourself unnecessarily to chemicals that might be problematic. Perhaps the most powerful way to do this is avoid processed food which is loaded with these chemicals from their own packaging.

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