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A world conspiring to make you fat

Adverts for fatty food trigger hunger by stimulating the brain’s appetite control centre, announced researchers at the 94th annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in the US this week. Sanchita Sharma reports.

columns Updated: Jun 30, 2012 22:50 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

Adverts for fatty food trigger hunger by stimulating the brain’s appetite control centre, announced researchers at the 94th annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in the US this week. If this new insight into the human brain is making you to consider giving up watching Master Chef, hang on. Apart from seductive food adverts and images, there are more than 100 different factors that conspire to expand your waistline without you having a clue, says the British Nutrition Foundation.

Almost everything, from how many remotes you use to work your gadgets to how fast you eat and how thin your parents are, controls the number your weighing scale shows when you step on it. These fattening factors go under seven broad groups: social, psychological, dietary, activity, environment, genetics, and time spent watching TV, computers and reading. All, except genes, can be altered.

Mindless snacking, a job that keeps you behind a desk most hours, and spending time with people who are unfit — they are more likely to have bad diets and be inactive — are some of the psychological and social factors that influence weight.

While some serious gymming or running for an hour can help you burn off around 300-400 Kcal (you need to burn 7,700 Kcal to lose one kg) for drastic weight loss, smaller changes — such as walking for 30 minute at a moderate pace can burn 120 Kcal — can help you shed at a slower, more manageable pace.

Other doable suggestions are doing some housework during the commercial breaks to burn up 40 Kcal per hour of TV viewing; eating fruit instead of biscuits and chips as an afternoon snack to reduce calorie intake by around 50 Kcal each day; and getting up to talk to a colleague or drink water at least once every hour at work, which can use up around 120 Kcal each day. Even fidgeting has its benefits, with people who tap their feet while sitting burning up to 350 Kcal a day more than people who stay completely still.

Eating too much kills more people worldwide than starvation, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), with at least 2.6 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Currently, one billion adults are overweight and more than 300 million obese, with the number expected to cross 1.5 billion by 2015. Two in three people — 65% of the world’s population — live in a country where overweight kills more people than underweight. Globally, 44% of diabetes, 23% of heart disease and 7-41% of certain cancers are linked with overweight and obesity, estimates the WHO.

Body mass index (BMI) — your weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2) — is used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. Globally, people with a BMI equal to or more than 25 are considered overweight and over 30 are counted as obese, but for south Asians, including Indians, the cut-offs are lower at 23 and 27, respectively.

This is because Indians are genetically at risk of several lifestyle disorders — heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a clutch of metabolic imbaances such as high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol and high triglycerides (an unhealthy blood fat) — at a lower weight, largely because additional fat gets deposited on our abdomen, instead of being evenly distributed across the body.

Eating healthy — having more unsaturated fats (oils that don’t solidify at room temperature), fruit, vegetables, pulses, whole grains and nuts, and having less of saturated fat (animal fats, ghee, vanaspati), sugar and salt — can help you maintain a healthy weight. Add to that 40

minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five to seven days a week and you can sleep better knowing you are fitter than most and have lowered your risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.

First Published: Jun 30, 2012 22:47 IST