We often call Millennials lazy, and more than any other generation, we call them fat. After all, the obesity rate has nearly doubled globally since 1980. While a lack of physical activity and an abundance of junk food have most certainly played a role, a new study shows that there’s another piece to the weight gain puzzle, making it harder to lose weight than ever before.
A study, published in the journal of Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, found that even if you ate the same amount of calories and exercised the same amount as someone in 1988, it’s harder to lose weight today than it was back then. Researchers examined the dietary data of 36,400 Americans between 1971 and 2008 and the physical activity data of 14,419 people between 1988 and 2006. Then, individuals were grouped together by food, activity, age, and BMI.
Researchers found an individual that ate and exercised the exact same amount in 2006 as in 1988, would have an average BMI that was 2.3 points higher.
“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight,” Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto’s York University, said in a statement. “However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”
You’re likely waiting with bated breath as I was to find out why. While a number of factors are at play, the bottom line is that our food system is to blame. Pesticides and chemicals in food packaging may be partially at fault because they have altered our hormones to make us fatter. Additionally, our gut health has also changed.
The Atlantic reports:
Kuk and the other study authors think that the microbiomes of Americans might have somehow changed between the 1980s and now. It’s well known that some types of gut bacteria make a person more prone to weight gain and obesity. Americans are eating more meat than they were a few decades ago, and many animal products are treated with hormones and antibiotics in order to promote growth. All that meat might be changing gut bacteria in ways that are subtle, at first, but add up over time. Kuk believes the proliferation of artificial sweeteners could also be playing a role.
We’re also heavier because antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed drugs, and they are known to cause people to gain weight and have difficulty losing it.
So, is there anything you can do about this invisible weight gain curse?
Your best bet is to avoid as many hidden chemicals as possible including pesticides in your home, garden, and in your food. And by choosing unprocessed whole foods wherever possible as well as avoiding non-organic meat and dairy. In the end, artificial anything can alter your microbiome and endocrine system, all causing the scale to tip up.
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Image of a 1980s woman from Shuttershock