Want to slim down Living at a higher altitude can help (and it's nothing to do with climbing)
Obesity risk dropped with every 660ft rise in altitudeChanges in elevation may affect appetite hormones, growth and how many calories the body burned
16:04 GMT, 13 February 2013
16:09 GMT, 13 February 2013
Man celebrates on the mountain
If you're packing quite a paunch there may be a novel solution to losing a few pounds – simply live at a higher altitude.
Researchers found that Americans who lived well above sea level were less likely to be obese than those in low-lying areas.
Lead researcher Dr Jameson Voss, from Uniformed Services University in Maryland, said: 'I was surprised by the magnitude of the
effect… I wasn't expecting such a consistent pattern as what was
The study was based on data from 400,000 people living in Colorado. The figures showed a person's obesity risk dropped with every 660ft increase in elevation.
'It provides some evidence that these associations persist over the long term,' Dr Voss said.
Dr Voss and his team said the finding could help explain the difference in obesity rates between states.
They said changes in elevation may affect appetite hormones, growth
and how many calories the body burned.
Cynthia Beall, who researches how the
body adapts to high altitudes but was not involved with the new study,
said it's common for travelers to high elevations to burn more calories
in their first few weeks.
'That person would probably lose some
weight during the course of a three week vacation… It would in fact be
an interesting question whether that would sustain,' Prof Beall from Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, told Reuters.
To examine obesity rates at different altitudes, the researchers combined information from several databases, including a telephone health survey of 422,603 Americans from 2011.
The researchers had information on 236 people who lived at the highest altitude of at least 9,800 feet above sea level. Those people tended to smoke less, eat healthier and exercise more.
The researchers also had information on 322,681 people who lived in the lowest altitude range – less than 1,600ft above sea level.
After taking into account other factors that could influence the results such as retirement age, the researchers found adults living in the lowest altitude range had a Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measurement of weight in relation to height – of 26.6.
That compared to people who lived in the highest altitude range, who had a BMI of 24.2. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9.
But don't pack your ski wear just yet – the team say the results aren't conclusive enough to prove moving up a mountain will mean you will automatically shed excess weight.
Prof Beall told Reuters that it would be interesting to take a closer look at the people living in Colorado, and to see whether their obesity prevalence would change if they move to a lower altitude.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Obesity.