Its Harder to Stay Thin Now: Millennial Spread and Food Additives

The results of a recent scientific study on weight gain demonstrate that it is harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise. In other words, people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago, are still fatter–and additives in food and prescription drugs may be the culprit.

In my book I discuss the three primary ways this additive-induced weight gain may occur, including the ability of some synthetic and industrialized additives present in processed foods and pharmaceutical drugs (especially known endocrine-disrupting chemicals) to trigger the immune system and alter metabolism. The researchers of the current study postulates similar possibilities…

1-People are exposed to more chemicals that might be weight-gain inducing. Pesticides, flame retardants, and the substances in food packaging might all be altering our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies put on and maintain weight.

2-The use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically since the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prozac, the first blockbuster SSRI, came out in 1988. Antidepressants are now one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and many of them have been linked to weight gain.

3-Americans are eating more meat than they were a few decades ago, and many animal products are treated with hormones and antibiotics in order to promote growth. All that meat might be changing gut bacteria in ways that are subtle, at first, but add up over time. The researchers believe that the proliferation of artificial sweeteners could also be playing a role.

Study overview

The authors examined the dietary data of 36,400 Americans between 1971 and 2008 and the physical activity data of 14,419 people between 1988 and 2006. They grouped the data sets together by the amount of food and activity, age, and BMI.

Study findings overview

A person in 2006, eating the same amount of calories, taking in the same quantities of macronutrients like protein and fat, and exercising the same amount as a person of the same age did in 1988 would have a BMI that was about 2.3 points higher. In other words, people today are about 10 percent heavier than people were in the 1980s, even if they follow the exact same diet and exercise plans.

“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight. However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”

-Jennifer Kuk, researcher and professor of kinesiology and health science, Toronto’s York University


Journal Reference: Brown, R.E., et al. Secular differences in the association between caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and physical activity with obesity, Obesity Research & Clinical Practice Journal, Volume 10, Issue 3, May–June 2016, Pages 243-255.