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11 Sneaky Things Other Than Food & Exercise That May Affect Your Weight

And how to make them work in your favor

The great recession

What do economics have to do with health? At most universities they’re not even in the same building! But it turns out that a dip in the economy can lead to a rise in our weight according to a study done by John Hopkins. Researchers found that from 2008 to 2012—the period known as the great recession—weight gain was strongly correlated with the rise in unemployment, increasing the risk of obesity by 21 percent. This makes sense as one of the first things to go when our budgets get tight are luxuries like health food and gym memberships, not to mention the loss of health insurance that often accompanies a job loss. However, it may help to remember that there are many low-cost or free ways to protect your health—and an investment in you is the best one you can make.

How high you are

No we’re not talking about the wave of pot legalization sweeping the country (although that probably would affect your weight too) but rather how high up you live. There’s a reason that Colorado is the both the slimmest and the steepest state in the nation. The altitude at which you live is strongly correlated with your weight, with each gain in altitude corresponding with a drop in weight, according to a study done by the U.S. Air Force. But don’t sell your beach-front property and head for the hills just yet—the effect can be balanced out by other factors known to prevent against obesity where you live, like outdoor greenery, strong social ties, and opportunities to go outside. Case in point: Hawaii is the third thinnest state in America, and it’s the definition of sea level.

 

It’s a generation thing

Ever wondered why your grandma never exercised a day in her life and yet wore a tiny wedding dress that you could never hope to fit into even though you run marathons? Some of it may be due to the difference in generations you were both born into. Bad news for young ‘uns: Millennials, Gen Y, and Gen X all need to eat less and exercise more to stave off obesity than their forefathers did, according to a study from York University. And it’s not just the fact that we have Netflix and take out at our fingertips. Rather, the researchers found that the average metabolism of both men and women has slowed, even after controlling for factors like disease, diet, and fitness. Why? We have no solid answers yet but in the meantime, if you’re under 40 at least you can take comfort that you’re not alone in your struggle.

That cursed smog

The effects of environmental pollutants go far beyond wheezing and sneezing. Rats exposed to highly polluted air were not only much more likely to become obese, according to a study done by Duke University, but also had a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And it’s not just limited to rodents. People who live close to roadways with a high level of air pollution are also more likely to gain weight, says a study from the University of Southern California. Unfortunately air pollution is likely not under your direct control but we can all work together to lobby for and implement clean-air policies where we live, making for both a healthier physical and celestial body.

Your thermostat

Our delightfully warm and cozy homes and offices might be partly responsible for our less-delightful expanding waistlines, say researchers in a study published in the journal Cell. The scientists found that regular exposure to mildly cold weather—as would have been normal in the days before programmable thermostats—helps the human body regulate a healthy weight. The chilly air seems to increase metabolism by making the body work harder to cope with the changing conditions. Some proponents of “cold therapy” take daily ice baths or “shiver walks” but you don’t have to be that extreme to see results, say the researchers. Just lowering your thermostat by a few degrees or turning the shower briefly to cold can help.
scale

How many antibiotics you’ve taken

Antibiotics are one of the biggest miracles of modern medicine, no doubt about it. But those infection-fighting drugs may have unintended consequences. The more antibiotics a person takes during their lifetime, particularly during early childhood, the greater their risk of becoming obese, according to an NYU study. Researchers speculate that it has to do with killing healthy gut bacteria, decimating your microbiome along with the bad bugs, as good bacteria has been shown to help prevent weight gain. But if you were the kid with chronic ear infections, don’t fret, you can rebuild your good gut bacteria by taking a probiotic and eating plenty of fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Fido and Fifi

Owning a pet, particularly a dog, slashes the human companion’s risk of obesity, says the American Heart Association. Why? Dogs need to be walked daily and are often quite persistent, encouraging their owners to walk as well. But it’s not just the extra exercise, especially since 40 percent of dog owners confess to not walking their dog on a regular basis. The researchers add that petting an animal greatly reduces stress and depression, two other known risk factors for weight gain. So if you do have a dog, make sure to walk them daily, and in the meantime soak up all the snuggles, wet kisses, and purrs you can.

The number on your paycheck

Income is one of the biggest factors correlated with obesity, with poor Americans being three times more likely to be obese than richer ones, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews. Low-income people are less likely to have access to supermarkets with fresh foods (often living in “food deserts”), less likely to have health insurance, and less likely to live in neighborhoods where exercise outdoors is encouraged or even safe. Fortunately this is one area we can all help improve by working to better conditions in our own neighborhoods or helping out others nearby.

Pesticides

Pesticides may help us grow stronger and more plentiful crops but many of the chemicals used in popular formulations are known “endocrine disruptors”: They interfere with your body’s metabolic systems. Pesticides hijack our metabolism by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with the body’s natural hormones, according to a report issued by The Endocrine Society. Regular exposure to pesticides through food was correlated with an increase risk of both obesity and diabetes. Buying all organic may be one solution but for many people that doesn’t fit in the budget. If money’s tight you can also decrease your pesticide load by avoiding, or only buying organic of, the “dirty dozen“, the most contaminated produce. Or you can always try growing some of your own fruits and vegetables. (Bonus: Gardening is great exercise!)

How many trees you can count from your window

Close proximity to parks, trails, and other types of green spaces is linked with lower body weight, according to research done by the American Diabetes Association. Being able to see, and more importantly walk to, greenery encouraged people to exercise more and made it feel, well, less like exercise. Parks make physical exertion feel like fun but even if you’re not using them to exercise, simply being in the presence of nature has been shown to reduce stress, lower weight and improve your health overall. The vast majority of Americans already live within walking distance of some type of park so get out there and explore your neighborhood.

All that stuff on the food label you don’t recognize

You already know that processed foods do no favors for your waistline but it turns out it’s not just the empty calories and trans fats doing the damage. Some of the most popular food additives are linked with weight gain and obesity, according to a study done by Georgia State University. Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods for texture and to extend shelf life, are one of the worst offenders as they interfere with good gut bacteria. But some artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and even the food packaging have also been linked in research to obesity.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen  
source: www.rd.com
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Living In A Greener Neighbourhood Could Lower Your Risk Of Death: Study

Not just parks but also streetside trees and lawns could have health benefits, study suggests

Trees stretching their canopies over city streets and grass tickling the sidewalk near your home are more than just pretty, they could actually be helping you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 metres (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.

“There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study published this week in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

‘Really, just having trees around where people are living is really important.’
– Dan Crouse, University of New Brunswick

Using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery was measured on a scale of 0 to 1. (Zero represented bare ground; 1 was complete coverage by dark green leafy plants.) The study found that each 0.15-point increase in greenness near the subjects’ homes was associated with an eight to 12 per cent decrease in the risk of death.

Crouse said the link between greenness and lower death rates remained even after researchers accounted for the effects of air pollution.

While previous studies have shown that exposure to green space and parks can improve mental health and in some cases physical health, the researchers say this is the first big study to show a clear link between green surroundings and a lower risk of death.

It also suggests that green spaces don’t have to be actual parks in order to have health benefits.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The study found that the positive effect of green surroundings was greater for people in middle age than in other age groups.

The effect was also greater among those with higher incomes and more education, and among men compared to women. The researchers aren’t sure why.

The study also couldn’t tell what kind of greenery was being measured, although trees gave a higher score than grass. Nor could it explain why exposure to greenery had that kind of effect — researchers didn’t know how much access people had to the green spaces or whether they were getting more exercise in greener areas, for example.

View of nature

But Crouse said there are benefits to living near green spaces such as golf courses even for people who don’t use them.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” he said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Dr. Gillian Booth is a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital who recently found that people who live in more walkable city neighbourhoods have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. She says the design of Crouse’s study looks sound, and she has used similar techniques in her own work.

She added that the results make her wonder what it is about green surroundings that are lowering death rates, and what threshold of greenness is needed to get those health benefits.

“Where do you draw the line and say there’s insufficient green space? And how much should you invest in it?” she said. “I think this is really exciting work in that it raises these types of questions.”

The study, she added, highlights that the way we design our communities can have a profound influence on residents’ health: “The potential reach is huge in terms of the number of people who could be benefiting from these health effects.”

By Emily Chung, Science and Technology Writer CBC News       Oct 12, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca