Compared to our ancestors, we are now a far more obese population! Our waistlines are growing and obesity is constantly on the rise, despite the many medical advances we now have. Interestingly, a recent study has found that it is not just eating more and moving less that matters, as there are other significant contributors to obesity, too.
Why Are We Getting Bigger?
The study, done by a team of researchers from York University in Toronto, Ontario, has shown that, “If you are 40 years old now, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than if you were a 40 year old in 1971, to prevent gaining weight.”
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and analyzed the dietary data of 26,400 American adults gathered by the National Health and Nutrition Survey between 1971 and 2008. The physical activity frequency data of 14,419 adults in the 1988 to 2006 period was also utilized.
The team of researchers compared three factors and found that although all of them were identical, a person in 2006 would still have about ten percent higher body mass index than that of a person eight years earlier. In other words, a person eating the same amount of fat, protein, and calories while exercising the same amount as a person did in 1988, would still be fatter today.
More Than Just Calories In Vs. Calories Out
According to the lead author of the study, Professor Jennifer Kuk, “[Our study] indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”
“This is because weight management is actually much more complex than just ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out’. That’s similar to saying your investment account balance is simply your deposits subtracting your withdrawals and not accounting for all the other things that affect your balance like stock market fluctuations, bank fees or currency exchange rates.”
Factors Affecting Our Weight Gain
Stress is a common factor when it comes to weight gain due to the constant fight-or-flight response. When the body reaches a certain stress level, it stimulates a response which causes us to overeat. For instance, one of the functions of the stress hormone is to boost the supply of glucose in the bloodstream, which means that it can be utilized as a source of energy. Our ancestors used this supply of energy to flee from a threat, while today we don’t actively utilize the energy. Eventually, we end up with problems like sugar fluctuations and fat storage.
These days, most homes are packed with products which affect our bodies. Some of them include fire retardants, triclosan, phthalates, BPA, PCBs, and agriculture pesticides, all of which resemble estrogen and lead to weight gain.
The food quality has also drastically changed compared to that of our ancestors. Most of the foods these days are heavily processed and filled with preservatives and additives, all of which affect the difference in weight gain experienced now.
We are taking far more drugs compared to our ancestors were, “additional novel factors that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic include increases in pharmaceutical prescriptions associated with weight gain, higher maternal age, reduction in variability of ambient temperature, decreased prevalence of smoking, inadequate amount of sleep and low calcium.”
Gut flora helps neutralize the toxic by-products of digestions, stimulate digestion, and improve the absorption of nutrients.
The standard American diet is low in foods which support gut flora such as probiotics and prebiotics, and high in processed foods. In addition, the widely consumed factory-farmed meat is known to kill the good bacteria in the gut.
What Can We Do?
Here are a few steps on how to fight off unhealthy weight gain:
- Look for a way to manage stress and get a good night`s sleep to prevent weight gain
- Eat real food and avoid any containing preservatives, additives, and artificial sweeteners
- Eat organic food to minimize the exposure to GMP foods, pesticides, and fungicides
- Switch conventional personal and household products to natural alternatives
- Take prescription drugs only when absolutely necessary
- Eat more gut-friendly foods such as leeks, asparagus, onions, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and organic yogurt