4 January 2016

Why is our generation overweight?

We live longer than we used to, and we don't die of nasty diseases such as cholera or plague. Our medical knowledge allows us to protect ourselves from infections like measles, small pox, cholera, and polio. We are much more hygienic than we used to, especially since the discovery and acceptance that germs can be passed on by skin contact as well as via sneezes and coughs. We know we need to be careful about what we eat (5-a-day, anyone?), and we need to exercise to stay fit.

And yet, we are more and more obese as a generation, we get more cancers, and our children develop more and more allergies and weird diseases.

It stands to wonder: what happened? What did we do to ourselves?

fruit and vegs
WHO recommends eating 5 fruit and vegs everyday
The usual saying is that because our life expectancy has increased, we have more time to develop diseases. Other explanations include: we are better at recording incidence of diseases, we eat more processed food and drink sodas, and we watch way too much TV and play video games.

While our Western lifestyle is certainly at fault, are we absolutely certain that it is all there is? That we can't do anything else? That our obesity generation is just lazy at re-establishing a healthier lifestyle?

In one of the most successful obesity clinics in Mumbai in the 80's, Dr Dhurandar always felt highly frustrated: his patients returned again and again, having always regained the lost weight or failing to lose any weight at all.

And frankly, who hasn't experienced this weight yo-yo phenomenon?

Dr Dhurandar's motto was the same we hear over and over again: 'eat less and move more'.
But he realised that, perhaps, eating more and moving less wasn't the only cause of overweight!

activity toddler
Being active from an earlier age will help us keep fit

Some people say it's a question of metabolism rate. How many times have we heard skinny people say that they have a fast metabolism and can't put on weight?

Well, it seems all this fast metabolism is not exactly true: overweight people who can't shift their extra weight don't have a slow metabolism, in fact they have a faster metabolism - simply because it takes more energy to run a big body than a small one.
Overweight people have a faster metabolism than lean people because it takes more energy to run a big body - Do you want to tweet this?

Instead, being overweight and obese seems to be more about a dysfunction of the body's energy-storage system. So how do we get about to restore the balance? Some scientists now believe the answer is in our microbiota composition.

What is the right balance to a healthy and lean life?
As we discover more and more about our inhabitants, some scientists believe they know which species are more prevalent in overweight bodies and which are in lean bodies (if you'd like to know more, come back in 2 hours, I will be publishing a new article that will focus on the exact species involved in obesity HERE).

Maybe this is the avenue that our fad diets have missed. Maybe, we have finally found where to look? And soon we'll find a way to understand how our body signals (leptin and ghrelin, the famous satiety and hunger hormones) work in tandem with our microbes to make us look the way we look.

What diet have you tried? Have you also experienced this yo-yo phenomenon?

Would you like to share your thoughts? Feel free to use the comments box, I'd love to read them.

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