This is an example of research taking a somewhat circuitous route to arrive at a conclusion which, while fairly obvious, probably doesn’t occur to most of us when we think about the reasons for weight gain and obesity.
Most nutritionists will tell you that weight management, at its most basic level, is a very simple matter of input against output.
Calories provide energy for us to function; our bodies, in all their amazing awesomeness, convert the food we eat into the calories we need and, even more amazingly, store unused calories as fat which can be used in the future should we need them.
The problem is that we never need them, not since we started finding our daily rations in the local supermarket and not out on a vast savannah where it had an even chance of running away from our eager grasp.
Nor did our evolutionary imperatives include provision for jaffa cakes, or any chocolate biscuit, nor any of the vast arrays of snacks, treats, sweets, fast food and takeaways that surround us constantly.
As a result most of us expend nowhere near as many calories as we consume and if we are to achieve anything like a balance in that input/output equation we require additional physical activity, like walking or exercise, to ‘burn off’ the extra.
As with sensible eating, which most of us call ‘dieting’, exercise requires commitment and will.
But it carries the additional burdens of requiring spare time and energy.
This is where the simplicity ends and all kinds of factors begin to have their impact.
It now seems that one of those factors is noise, or more specifically, traffic noise.
Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Instituet set out to find if there was any correlation between traffic noise and obesity.
Their contention was that a lack of proper, uninterrupted, sleep would lead to lower waking energy levels and a reduced willingness to exercise which would translate into evidence of a higher risk of obesity.
They found it.
After examining the living arrangements and weight records of over 5,000 Swedes their findings, published in the BMJ’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, were unequivocal.
The researchers found that those living under a flight path or near an airport were more likely to suffer from weight issues.
They were also most likely to still be smoking and have anxiety or other psychological complaints.
They calculated that for every five decibel increase in noise above the ‘standard’ traffic noise level of 45dB, the average person gains 0.2cm on their waist.
Of course, slavishly applying this logic without any context or timescale would mean that anyone who attended the Who concert at Charlton Athletic in May 1976 left the ground with 15cm of extra girth than they came with, but the point is well made.
It also feeds into another piece of research out of Cambridge University in a joint project with the Rand research organisation, funded by the Vitality Health insurance company, reporting on the effect of sleep deprivation in the workplace.
In a survey of more than 21,000 employees they found that a lack of anything less than six hours sleep led to an immediate downturn in work performance.
The researchers termed the phrase ‘presentism’ for those who went to work but did as little as possible.
Ironically, and rather disconcertingly, this research found no evidence of any reduced productivity from drinking or overeating.
Disconcerting, that is, until you realise that this survey simply collated the data from self-reporting by the employees about themselves.
With a median age of 36 I guess they can be forgiven for still thinking they can handle a boozy dinner but being woken up in the night is a killer.
Just you wait boys and girls…just you wait.
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