This is the second part of the article on other causes of weight gain and obesity that rarely receive attention. You can read the first part on this link.
- Lack of enough sleep
The number of hours of quality sleep per night is inversely proportion to body mass index and obesity.
Over the years, hours of sleep have decreased as people become busy, multitask and want to accomplish and achieve more.
Deprivation of sleep in humans causes increased hunger and appetite. Under the busy modern life, the heightened hunger and appetite is quenched with quick and readily available high calorie fast foods.
- Endocrine disruptors
Environmental toxins from industries that act as endocrine disruptors have increased over time and they have been shown to increase possibility of fat deposition in the body.
Probably this can explain why obesity is almost directly proportional to industrialization.
- Comfy homes and offices
It has been scientifically proven that living and working in comfortable houses and offices increases the chances of becoming fat.
Increase in wealth comes with many added advantages such as homes and offices with air conditioning, good insulation, central heating systems and air freshening appliances.
These added comfy accessories are good. They improve working conditions making it desirable and enjoyable. However there is an underlying problem. They are fuelling obesity.
Biologically, if the environmental temperatures drop or rise above body physiological temperature, the body expends energy to keep itself thermally regulated. The need for self thermal regulation is eliminated by air conditioning systems which create thermal neutral zones.
Deposition of fat under thermal neutral zone is widely exploited in maximizing weight gain in animals for slaughter.
Detour of human and animal temperatures either above or below thermal neutral zone also markedly reduce food intake. This is demonstrated by fall in food sales in restaurants when air-conditioning system fails or increase in beer sales if bar environment is made comfortable.
Today, people are living in thermal neutral zones than they did 30 years ago. For example, in Kenya, a decade ago most people lived in semi-permanent houses with poor insulation. Majority have moved up the wealth ladder and are now enjoying better homes and offices with improved insulation and air conditioning.
Nowadays, air conditioning system in cars is standard rather than a luxury.
In developed countries like UK, the average internal home temperature increased from 13 to 18 degrees Celsius between 1970 and 2000. The percentage of US homes with central air-conditioning systems increased from 23 to 47% between 1978 and 1997. In the Southern United States, where some of the highest obesity rates are observed, the percentage of homes with central air-conditioning systems almost doubled from 37 to 70% between 1978 and 1997.
Research shows that smokers generally weigh less than non-smokers and weight gain is witnessed after ceasing smoking.
This is because the nicotine found in cigarettes is known to raise body temperature as well as suppress the appetite.
World wide smoking has declined due to the adverse effects of smoking on health. This could have in turn led to increase in body weight of those who ceased smoking.
- Modern medicines
Weight gain is induced by many psychotropic medications (antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers), anticonvulsants, antidiabetics, antihypertensives, steroid hormones and contraceptives.
Most pharmaceuticals described above were introduced or had their use dramatically increased in the past three decades. In the past 30 years, outpatient prescriptions for atypical antipsychotic medications have increased from essentially zero to nearly 70%.
Oral anti-diabetic prescriptions anticonvulsants and antihypertensives have also increased more than twofold for the last 20 years.
- Psychological factors
It is scientifically shown that couples gain a significant amount of weight after marriage, surprisingly; they lose some weight after divorce.
Also most people put on weight after completing college or getting a job.
Several factors including consuming large meals, feeling secure, hormones and psychological factors are responsible.
Overweight preventative strategies
The first law of thermodynamics has put us into the uncomfortable place of believing that all persons, through willpower, increased food choices, or more places to exercise, can overcome the current epidemic of obesity.
This is only true to some people but not all.
Based on the first law of thermodynamics the preventative strategies that can work for most individuals include; limiting energy intake from total fats and sugars, increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts, limiting sugars and increasing physical activity
The food industry can also play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by: reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods and practicing responsible marketing.
It is also not fair to feel guilty if watching calories and exercise strategies does not work. Every case of overweight is individual specific. It would be wise to seek professional expertise to know if factors such as genes are responsible.
Government has role to play in legislations that reduce toxic chemicals from the industries that harm the endocrine system as we as the environment.
Use of some of the modern drugs can be limited if other simple and possible preventative strategies are employed. For example, positive stress management can eliminate the need for antidepressants. Healthy diets can lower chances of diabetes and do away with need for anti-diabetic drugs.
Overcoming overweight and obesity requires personal effort, industrial responsibility as well as government intervention.
Overweight preventative strategies are not ‘one size fits all’; it is wise to seek help from reputable physician if exercising and watching calories does not work.