Is this the cause of the obesity crisis?

I wouldn’t say I’m entirely sold on the idea as yet but it is intriguing:

It could be a really cool way to lose weight.

Researchers say that cosy, centrally heated bedrooms may be making us fat – meaning losing weight could be as simple as turning down the radiator.

Something as simple as sleeping in a cool room for a month could make major difference, a US medical conference heard.

It’s the “brown fat” idea again.

And, OK, more proof needed etc. But it does have the joy of explaining something. Which is that the obesity “crisis” does seem to have fanned out over the world in conjunction with people actually being able to heat their bedrooms.

29 comments on “Is this the cause of the obesity crisis?

  1. Always seem such an obvious “diet” to me. Even leading a totally sedentary life one still burns through 1500 calories a day, most of which is involved in keeping your body at 98.6F. Arctic explorers burn 2,000 more calories per day than a similar guy trekking across the South Downs.

  2. This can’t be the answer I’m afraid. New Zealand has the same problem as everywhere else in the west, but central heating is almost unknown here, much to the disgust of the local expat Brits.

  3. But Tim, obesity is a crisis of POVERTY. That’s why its growth correlates with GDP growth rates.

  4. I have suspected as much for years. I think it was first mentioned as a possibility on Numberwatch, the blog that tracks the misuse of statistics.

  5. Personally, I don’t believe there is an obesity crisis. It’s a statist term. There are more fat people knocking about, but it’s their affair entirely.

    (Or would be, but for the NHS. Though I believe that mild obesity actually increases life expectancy.)

  6. Almost everything is caused by genes or germs.

    If something spreads like an infectious disease, that may well be what it is.

  7. We run the occupied rooms at 18C (when occupied), and never heat the bedroom. Doesn’t seem to have much effect on my waistline. Tohoku (and the bedroom) get mighty cold in winter. Normally the snow lies from December to March.

  8. The Obesity Crisis™ began when Government started it.

    In the U.S., government defined it down. It takes less to be obese than it used to.

    Statistics are from unverified phone survey data that is then adjusted by government workers who have a stake in the outcome. The “data” is rubbish.

    Visitors to the U.S. are shocked to see that we aren’t all fat.

  9. There is no obesity crisis.

    When health campaigners use the BMI to measure obesity and then look at young kids and say they are overweight then you know that the “crisis” is manufactured. BMI is a way of measuring the population of adults, not for working out if individuals are overweight or not. And it doesn’t work for kids. It’s also an outdated Victorian method.

  10. @ sbml

    You seem to be saying there’s no obesity, but while I agree there’s no crisis there are definitely more fat people around.

    Just look back at old photos of the poor – they’re almost all skinny. Now they’re almost all fat.

  11. Actually, they’re almost all fat *apart from males up to about 24*, a percentage of whom are rat-thin.

  12. Correlation is not proof of causation. Just like Global Warming cannot be directly linked to the number of of SUV’s in the world. really.

  13. Well I was going to trend #IAgreeWithInterestedAgain, but then he said about the poor being skinny in the olden days.

    A few weeks ago, I was setting up my dad’s new computer and we transferred some old family photos and were looking at them. One showed his grandfather, grandfather’s second wife, various other relatives. What was notable and I rather indelicately commented on was that, with the exception of my young Auntie Phyllis (respelendent in Sally Army uniform) all the women were frankly rather hefty.

    These were simply village peasant folk standing outside their simply village home in the early 20th century. All the women looked like the ones off those old seaside postcards; big, with arms like hams. It certainly contained no evidence that people in the past were skinny; but then neither did the lampooning of such women in comedy (think, Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough in drag).

    I do not believe there is an obesity crisis. I do not seem to see as many fat people as those who claim to; I suspect that once you believe in it, you start only noticing fatties when you are out and about, and gain a skewed perception. Plus, the tendency of those with fuller figures these days to wear inappropriate fashions rather than more concealing floral pinnies.

  14. The other thing that makes no sense is the idea that people slept cold before central heating. They put more blankets on the bed.

    Humans are only physically comfortable in a narrow range of temperatures. Too cold, you can’t sleep. You don’t lie their shivering off the fat, you put on another blanket.

    Or speaking personally; I always turn the heating off at night. Because I have, you know, a duvet.

  15. Umm, I would have thought that the spread of people being able to afford to heat their bedrooms might well go hand-in-hand with the spread of people being able to afford too much food, and therefore also being able to afford highly-processed junk food.

    But then I’m not a “researcher”, so what do I know?

  16. @IanB I’m not saying there were no fat people, just that they were (anecdotally, but look at football crowd photos) fewer.

    It may be that it’s more a male thing – working class men evolved for manual labour on a 2000 cal per day diet, suddenly sitting on their arses all day and eating 3000 cals?

    Interesting that it’s a family photo, though. Fat genes, I assume.

  17. Every man, bar one, was at least overweight, and at least a third of them were obese – according to their bmi.
    Yet they still managed to defeat Australia in 2003 Rugby Union World Cup final.

  18. “Actually, they’re almost all fat *apart from males up to about 24*, a percentage of whom are rat-thin.”

    Heroin will do that every time.

  19. For what it’s worth, my own anecdotal opinion has been for a long time that there are two basic genetic patterns in the population, which might be due to a single gene complex; one gets fatter as it gets older, and one gets thinner as it gets older. One is naturally upholstered, even when notionally slim- the other has that “wiry” look. One gets a double chin, the other gets the turkey wattle.

    Try looking at groups of youngsters if you’re out and about in a chavtown as I often am (no, not like that Ironman). There’s usually a pretty clear double peak distribution in BMI, even though they’re all hanging around the same chip shop.

    Like I say, anecdotal. But there may be two basically quite different body chemistries in the gene pool.

  20. There’s quite a lot of support for the hypothesis relating to temperature – not about brown fat though but about physical activity. We move a lot more – and more quickly – in cooler temperatures. And, in the UK at least, average per capita calorie intake has fallen since the 1970s – yet we are fatter on average. Labour saving systems (the TV remote being my favourite) are part of the change but, if warmer environments make us torpid, that is a factor as well.

  21. “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?”

    “No. It’s your big butt that makes you look fat.”

  22. Simon – “There’s quite a lot of support for the hypothesis relating to temperature – not about brown fat though but about physical activity. We move a lot more – and more quickly – in cooler temperatures. ”

    It is said that British homes used to be 8 C on average. I am not sure but it is not hard to find members of my family who had to break the ice to face their faces in the morning.

    I just flatly refuse to believe you can sit and watch TV or play computer games – or type on a blog – for any length of time when it is that cold. Children had to go and play outside otherwise bits would have dropped off.

  23. Way back -women worked – this included ‘housework’-that’s why so many had muscular arms. I remember the dinner ladies at our school were gifted with big red arms – you could see as they doled out the food – early fifties.Then came ‘labour saving devices'(in the UK) .
    A simple husband / wife study shoud cast light on the effect of night time temperatures. They both ( usually) sleep together.

  24. There are a lot more fat kids now than there were 60 years ago. At my first school there were zero fat kids in my class, in my second school (after my father was relocated) there was one fat boy in my class for two years and a different fat boy in my class for the next three years.
    I note that the comments above all relate to fat women, not fat men. Yes, there were *some* fat men – just not so many. Worth thinking why.

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