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Diet and exercise are the main factors that impact body weight. In addition, other aspects seem to be significant: Apparently, people who do not sleep enough eat more. Well heated rooms lower your energy consumption. Overweight parents usually have overweight children. And quitting smoking may lead to weight gain. In addition, hormones and medication may cause excess pounds.
Getting enough sleep helps prevent excess weight
Experiments on rats have shown: rats with a lack of sleep eat more and become fatter than rats who can sleep as much as they would like. This is presumably due to a hormonal shift. Animals with little sleep had significantly higher concentrations of appetite-enhancing hormones in their blood. The stress hormone, cortisol, which causes the build-up of fat was increased. Different studies by the medical faculty of the University of Laval showed the effects of a lack of sleep on the body weight of 5 to 10 year-old children: Children who slept fewer than 10 hours per night were significantly more likely to be overweight than children who had slept more than 12 hours per night. American scientists at the University of Chicago performed the sleep test with adults. While one group of individuals was only able to sleep for four hours, the other group slept eight hours and yet another group slept for twelve hours. The result: The less sleep the subjects had, the greater their desire was for calorie-rich sweets.
Regardless of whether a lack of sleep leads to excess weight or not, sleep physicians assume that most adults need seven hours of sleep per day in order to be fresh, rested and stay healthy. If you have found yourself in a pattern of getting much more or less sleep than this recommended amount, try to aim towards seven hours each night.
Our tip for better sleep
If you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, drink a cup of cocoa made with low-fat milk, or a cup of low-fat milk with honey, before going to bed. Milk contains the protein building block tryptophan, which triggers the “feel-good neurotransmitter” serotonin. Serotonin appears to play a role in sleep regulation and has shown a sleep-promoting effect in several studies. The sugar in cocoa powder ensures that tryptophan can enter into the brain in an increased supply and be available for the production of serotonin.
Cold and heat burn calories
Researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham found that nowadays we are rarely exposed to different climatic conditions in our civilised society. We live and work in spaces where the temperature is always well controlled, so we are not required to regulate our body temperature. We don’t get cold or sweat very often and therefore use no energy to keep our body temperature in the 37 degree (Celsius) range. So whoever constantly stays in air-conditioned rooms is missing a chance to burn calories along the way. Tests confirmed that animals staying in a temperature range above 26 degrees Celsius consumed more energy and lost weight. Therefore, there appears to be a correlation between ambient temperature and calorie consumption. However, your goal should not be to expose yourself to extreme temperatures in order to lose weight.
Our tip: walks during any kind of weather or, for example, trips to the sauna, can not only boost your calorie consumption, but can also strengthen your body’s defences.
The genotype plays a role in body weight
It is actually true: overweight mothers and fathers pass down the risk of obesity to their children through their genes. Researchers determined that the body weight of children who grew up in an adoptive family bore greater resemblance to the weight of their natural parents than the weight of their adoptive parents. Hereditary factors can indeed influence weight. This does not mean, however, that you will inevitably gain weight just because there are many overweight people in your family. With the right lifestyle, you can prevent weight gain. If you eat consciously and exercise plenty every day, there is a good chance you will stay slim.
Older mothers giving birth often have “heavier” offspring
Presumably, the timing of the pregnancy is significant for the body weight of children. The birth weight of newborns appears to increase with the age of the mother. Klaus Vetter, president of the German Society for Perinatal Medicine, explained in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung “In 1970, newborns weighed 3,200 grams on average, today the average is nearly 4,000 grams.” The phenomenon is connected with the increased average age of pregnant women. The more common habit in older women to overeat means that their children are more often overfed. Vetter [Markets, please either localise or remove] named gestational diabetes, which is more common in older women, as an additional cause for heavy and large children. Newborns with a very high birth weight are also more likely to weigh too much as an adult. The same seems to apply for very light babies. Statistically speaking, they are also frequently heavier than the average weight later in life.
Smokers are often thinner
Smokers usually eat less and use more energy. Those who quit smoking may therefore gain weight. Still, you should forego cigarettes. The advantages of quitting are far greater than the disadvantage of a possible small weight gain.
Medication and hormones can make you fat
Hormones and certain medication can also impact body weight. For example, if our body produces too few thyroid hormones, it slows metabolism and leads to obesity in the long run. However, hypothyroidism is only rarely the cause of excess weight gain. If you are overweight, you should nevertheless have the function of your thyroid checked by a doctor.
Some medications, such as drugs to combat depression and diabetes, cortisone, beta-blockers and the contraceptive pill, can also cause your weight to increase. Tip: If you see weight gain as a side effect on the product label for your medication, ask your doctor whether he can prescribe an alternative means that has less impact on your weight.