The Complexity of Weight Status

michelle-khadraAn interesting talk that I attended a few weeks ago during the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Research Symposium shed light on some hypotheses behind potential causes of weight gain and obesity, a problem which, as we all know, is on the upswing in America. Most people think that obesity is simply caused by people eating too much and not exercising enough. However, this talk proposed that there are a whole range of factors, (evolutionary, social and ecologic, just to name a few) that are affecting obesity outcomes.  Dr. David Allison presented the talk.

Some highlights from the talk:

  • Socioeconomic status (SES) seems to have a direct effect on obesity. When people were randomly moved from a lower SES neighborhood to a higher SES neighborhood, their rate of having an obese body mass index (BMI) was lower than in control groups, who stayed in lower SES neighborhoods.
  • Studies show that animals gain weight when they are given fewer calories per day—seems counterintuitive, right? Dr. Allison hypothesized that this is due to a perceived threat to the animals’ food supply; when the animals sense that they have less food, they put on weight, almost as a protective mechanism.
  • Animal studies show that animals on calorie-restricted diets live longer than animals on a control diet. Furthermore, monkeys who were calorie-restricted look better and healthier in old age than their control counterparts. The reason for this is still unclear.
  • Fun tid-bits from the talk: College men who were asked about their ideal women after eating were more likely to choose a heavier and slightly older women than college men who were asked when they were hungry, before eating. This just goes to show how great of an impact hunger and satiety have on our unconscious perceptions!

These are all pretty neat findings that just go to show how complex obesity and weight gain is, and it can’t be attributed to just one factor, so no need to worry about eating some Halloween candy this week!

The talk was titled: “From Evolution to Ecology to Economics: Some Curious Conjectures Connecting Social Dominance, Energetics, Perceptions, Adiposity, and Lifespan”

Happy Halloween!

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