Does BMI = BS?
Is Health Food Making You Fat?
By almost all accounts obesity is sharply on the rise--in the U.S. and globally. Studies show that people are about 10 percent heavier than the average person 30 years ago. Are we growing lazier? Or are did previous generations somehow screw us over? What's going on?
Some researchers point the finger at "Obesogens" which a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives defines as "dietary, pharmaceutical, and industrial compounds that may alter metabolic processes and predispose some people to gain weight". The idea is that low background levels of certain chemicals can be linked to an overall increase in weight. The study implicates several chemicals like DDE (a DDT breakdown product), BPA (which is used in plastics), and PFOA (which is used as a protective coating on some fabrics like carpets).
Sometimes these chemicals find their way into an expecting mother from a water bottle, from upholstery and disrupts the fetus's development. In several animal studies, the generation exposed to chemicals while in the womb grew up to be fatter than their parents. The most common theme of these chemicals, is that they're known endocrine disrupters. These types of chemicals are frequently linked to ill health effects like weight gain. They can change the way adipose cells, or fat cells work. Rather than triggering the body to make more of these fat cells, endocrine receptors can make the cells hold more. The cells get bigger.
But authors of the study published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice think our microbiomes could be contributing to our weight gain, too. Maybe the hormones and antibiotics in our food might be changing the gut bacteria that helps us digest food, potentially leading to more weight gain. But it's kind of hard to take a sample of someone's microbiome from 30 years ago to compare it to the microbiomes of today, so it's hard to draw hard conclusions here.
But all this taken together makes a strong case that there's more to the story than just diet and exercise. What do you think? Sound off in the comments down below.
Why It Was Easier to Be Skinny in the 1980s (The Atlantic)
"A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter."
Secular differences in the association between caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and physical activity with obesity (Obesity Research Clinic)
"Factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI over time. Further research is necessary to identify these factors and to determine the mechanisms through which they affect body weight."