by Sudha Bhat on  March 1, 2013 at 12:42 PM Health Watch
Could How High People Live Affect Their Weight?
Do you have to literally drag your heels everyday for jogging, jumping, kick boxing, lifting weights, brisk walking and doing the whole nine yards of a fitness regime in an attempt to lose those extra pounds and keep fit? Are you the one constantly feeling that these exercise routines simply convert fats, carbohydrates and starches into body aches, pains and cramps?

If so, that brings up the next obvious question, how does one keep one's body and mind happy and fit without exerting too much? Research shows that now there could be a novel solution to losing that extra flab - simply live at a higher altitude! That's some food for thought for you, if you are losing ground in the battle of the bulge.

Empowering Better Health

A new study shows that people who live where the air is thinnest are less likely to be obese than those in low-lying areas. The study led by Jameson Voss, from Uniformed Services University in Maryland, shows that Americans living at higher altitudes were more likely to be slimmer than those in low-lying areas.

The study which was published in the International Journal of Obesity, was conducted on 400,000 people living in the state of Colorado. Results showed that a person's obesity risk was lowered with every 660 feet increase in elevation.

Voss commented "I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect...I wasn't expecting such a consistent pattern as what was emerging."

Dr. Voss added that the finding of the study explains why the obesity rates are different between various states in the United States of America and why Colorado had the lowest obesity rate leading to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Voss also cautioned that the results don't mean people should move to higher altitudes to lose weight, but he said that the work suggests that elevation could be part of the obesity puzzle.

It is a well known fact that mountain air contains less oxygen than air at lower altitudes, so breathing it causes the heart to beat faster and the body to burn more energy. The authors speculate that the thin air at higher elevations could possibly affect appetite hormones, causing a decrease in their appetite and increasing the calories which they burnt, leading to weight loss.

Cynthia Beall, a professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was not involved in the above study, but conducted a research on how the body adapts to high altitudes. She found that it was common for tourists travelling to high elevation to burn more calories in the first few weeks of their journey without having to go on a diet. She also said that it would be interesting to see whether these tourists could maintain their weight loss after returning back.

The researchers collected information from several databases, to examine obesity rates at different altitudes, including a telephone health survey of 422,603 Americans from 2011.

Information was obtained from 236 people who lived at the highest altitude of at least 9,800 feet above sea level. These people seemed to smoke less, eat healthier and exercise more.

The researchers also collected information on 322,681 people who lived at a lower altitude - less than 1,600ft above sea level.

The researchers found adults living in the lowest altitude range had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26.6, whereas people who lived in the highest altitude range had a BMI of 24.2. BMI, which provides as reliable indication of body fat, is a measurement of a person's weight in relation to their height. A healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Prof Beall commented that it would be interesting to see if the obesity prevalence of people in Colorado would change if they move to a lower altitude. She also cautioned that new findings don't prove that higher altitude prevented people from being obese. Researchers have found that people living in Colorado's higher altitudes migrated to lower altitudes when they got sick with chronic diseases.

It is true that nothing tastes as good as feeling thin feels, but don't pack your bags and head out for the Himalayas or Mount Everest yet - scientists say the results aren't conclusive enough to prove moving to higher elevation will automatically shed excess weight. The findings are preliminary and further research is needed in more number of people.

Source: Medindia

Most Popular on Medindia