According to recent research, we are more predisposed to weight gain than we would have been a mere 30 or 40 years ago. Are we eating more? Are we exercising less? Perhaps, but according to the study, greater factors are at play.
According to research, a person with the same diet and exercise habits in the 80s would have a 2.3 point increase in their BMI in 2006 without changing anything at all — simply by existing 30 years in the future. That’s right — existing in our modern environment has contributed to a greater body mass among the population.
Why is this?
There are many potential contributors that can each cause a slight increase in the propensity to gain weight. Add them all together, and that 2 point increase in BMI can easily be accounted for. From increased use of pesticides to medication side effects, here are 7 possibilities (that go beyond diet and exercise) that could be working to make us bigger.
Pesticides. We are ingesting more pesticides today than ever. In fact, pesticide exposure in pregnant women may actually be obesogenic — meaning the resulting children have a greater tendency towards obesity. Pesticides are endocrine disruptors, meaning they cause your hormones to careen off-kilter, leading to myriad dysfunctions, including weight gain.
Stress. With the advent of technology, people are trying to multitask more than ever. No one is good at multitasking. It is stressful for the human body to try to focus on two things at once. In fact, stress levels have increased by about 20 percent for Americans since the 80s. Don’t let your stress rule you. Take one task at a time, and try to live mindfully.
Lack of sleep. We are getting less sleep than we did in decades past. According to a survey of one million people in 1959 and 1960, only 2 percent of people got less than 6 hours of sleep each night. By 2004, these surveys found that 30 percent of adults were getting less than 6 hours per night. Too little sleep can encourage many health issues, including obesity.
Gut microbiome. With our increased intake of processed food and lack of dietary diversity, our gut bacteria are suffering. When the little critters are out of balance, issues like hormonal imbalance and obesity can result. The good news is, you can fix your microbiome with relative ease. In a 2014 study, 20 rural Africans were fed a standard, high-fat, low-fiber American diet while Americans were fed a traditional, low-fat, high-fiber diet of the rural Africans. By the end of the 2 week period, the Africans had a sharp decline in their microbiome diversity and anti-inflammatory butyrate production, while the Americans nearly doubled. The lesson? Eat real, wholesome, unprocessed foods — it’s never too late to change.
Increased high-fructose corn syrup intake. This one doesn’t need much explanation. Our intake of HFCS has only increased since the 80s, as has our intake of processed foods. Our use of sweeteners has increased substantially since the 80s, with our HFSC consumption nearly doubling. Too much sugar, especially sneaky HFCS, can lead to obesity.
Side effects of medications. More medications than ever come with ‘weight gain’ as a side effect. Antidepressants are a great example. Up to 25 percent of those who take antidepressants gain weight, and there has been a 400 percent increase in antidepressant use since 1988.
Comfort. We surround ourselves with air conditioning and plush furniture so we don’t ever have to be uncomfortable. But, that discomfort boosts the metabolism and burns calories. If you’re living a plush life, it’s natural that you’re going to have to watch your dietary intake a little more closely.
The obesity epidemic is more than eating less and exercising more. Our entire system needs an overhaul, from our over-reliance on prescription drugs, to spraying poisons on our food, to stressing ourselves too much. To find out why obesity is on the rise, it’s important to look at the whole picture.