Eat Less, Exercise More: Obesity May Be More Complicated Than We Think

Obesity What causes obesity? The answer at first may seem quite simple; we need to eat less and exercise more. But David Allison Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Public Health has discovered other factors that may be contributing to the rise in obesity rates. Allison conducted research on various mammals and their weight gain over time. Instead of focusing on food intake and activity level he found other rather alarming causes for these changes in body weight.

The first contributing factor to obesity that Allison hypothesizes is our access to light. His studies conclude that the amount of time spent in light or dark environments may affect our eating habits. Could the amount of time we spend indoors or light pollution in our industrialized world be contributing to our excess pounds?  Recent studies printed in the LA Times also suggest using the iPad prior to bed could affect sleep.

Excerpt from LA Times article:

The difference? Devices like the Kindle, the Nook (the top part of the screen that displays books) and popular e-readers from Sony use a technology called e-paper. It simulates the look of an actual printed page and does not emit light. That means, unlike the iPad, you can effectively read in direct sunlight. (Beach, anyone?)

The iPad, however, contains a touchscreen liquid-crystal display that, like computer screens and television sets, emits light. On the plus side, you can sneak the device under the covers while your significant other sleeps beside you and flip through a couple pages of a book without a flashlight.

Allison also suspects that certain virus can affect how our body weight is comprised. He points out that other epigenetic factors experienced in our environment like stress, access to appropriate resources, and climate change could also be sources of the problem.

Although Allison and others argue that there is much more to our weight gain than diet alone, studies continue to prove that we are what we eat, and food still does play a major role in body composition. A study conducted at the Faculty of Life Sciences in Copenhagen analyzed five different diets and found that the diet high in protein with a low-glycemic index (limited refined sugars and carbohydrates) to be the most effective method of weight loss. Foods containing high-glycemic indexes have been found to create drastic alterations in our blood glucose levels, altering our metabolism in undesirable ways.

So what do we recommend to lose weight and keep it off?
  • A diet comprised of lean meats: fish, eggs, and poultry keep you feeling fuller longer.

  • Carbohydrates: vegetables and seasonal fruits (with low sugar content).

  • Keep lights very dim after sundown.  Try to limit TV watching in the evening hours and reference the LA Times article on using consumer electronics before bedtime.

  • What to avoid: all processed foods, soda, foods high in fat and sugar, desserts or refined corn products.

When considering potential causes of obesity it is valuable look beyond just diet and exercise alone and look at other potential factors, but we must not forgo our tried and true healthy eating habits in our quest for weight loss.

Yours in Health,

Stella Metsovas B.S., CCN