Cheese Curls, or Curling up in the Office Chair? Causes of the Obesity Epidemic
We’ve been deluged with information about how we’ve been consuming more calories, how portion sizes have grown, and the increasingly unhealthy quality of the food we eat. And it seems obvious in our everyday lives. So it seems logical to think that’s the cause of our obesity explosion and its handmaidens, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But is that borne out by hard evidence? According to a study by a team of researchers at Louisiana State, Montclair State, and the University of South Carolina, the decrease in physical activity on the job is a key cause of the national weight gain over the past few decades. With fewer manufacturing and agricultural jobs, and more and more sedentary jobs, we just aren’t burning up as many calories.
Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the researchers calculated that the daily calorie burn at work had dropped by 142 calories for men between 1960 and 2003. In 1960, the average 40-50 year old man weighed 170 pounds, according to data from the U.S.National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Using just these two pieces of data, the researchers calculated that the average man’s weight should increase to 198 pounds by 2003. Not including any changes in what he ate.
The actual 2003 data: the average man had ballooned to 203 pounds.
Oh, by the way, the same thing happened to women; their average 1960 weight was 143 pounds. Their daily calorie burn at work dropped by 124, which was predicted to cause her weight to gain to 165 by 2003. Just like the men, the actual data is very close to that, at around 170.
That’s only 3% more than the predictions for both men and women. I’d call that a very, very good prediction over 40 years. Move over, cheese curls; it’s time to realize that the office chair is at least your equal parter in crime.