Obesity is a medical condition wherein excessive body fat accumulates to an extent that may have a damaging effect on health, leading to short life expectancy and health problems. It has many triggers and a new study has established a link between this disorder and altitudes at which people live.
Researchers carried out a study at the University of Navarra, Spain, where people living at high altitudes are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to people living at low altitudes.
In the study, researchers utilized data from another continuing study of Spanish university graduates, dubbed as the SUN project. Researchers monitored the headway of 9,302 graduates who were not overweight or obese at the initial stage of the study.
These 9,302 graduates were divided into 3 groups based on their postcode. The ‘low’ cluster were people living less than 124m above sea level, the ‘medium’ group were people living between 124 to 456 m above sea level, and lastly the ‘high’ batch were people living higher than 456m above sea level, taking into consideration the length of stay of each participant in his or her city.
Out of the 9302 participants, 2099 individuals became obese in the period that follows. Upon further analysis, researchers discovered that people in the high elevation cluster (456m above sea level) were 13 % less likely to be overweight or obese than those in the low elevation group (less than 124m above sea level).
Although, researchers have not successfully established why people living in higher altitudes have a less likely chance to be overweight or obese. One of the hypothesis formulated is that high altitudes trigger the body’s production of appetite suppressing hormones compared to at lower altitudes.
Regions with high altitudes have low oxygen levels, and people are bound to suffer a condition called hypoxia, wherein tissues of the body don’t get ample oxygen to meet their needs. Hypoxia is presumed the stimulant of leptin production.
Researchers said in a news release, “While it might not be realistic to expect everyone to move further uphill to reduce obesity levels, it is encouraging to see this effect occurred at only 450m altitude. The results are in agreement with potential biological mechanisms that are caused by hypoxia.”