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Danish researchers have announced a rather wild hypothesis: Perhaps we are getting fatter and fatter because of the increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Hersoug was surprised to see that both fat and thin people taking part in the studies over a 22-year period had put on weight – and the increase was proportionately the same.
Orexins – which are neuropeptide hormones – in the brain stimulate wakefulness and energy expenditure. These hormones may be affected by CO2, and this can cause us to go to bed later, affecting our metabolism so it is easier for us to put on weight. But orexins are also involved in the stimulation of food intake.
“The normal theory is that fat people get fatter because they don’t move as much as they should,” says Hersoug, now a post-doc at the Research Centre for Prevention and Health at Glostrup University Hospital. “But the study showed that thin people also get fatter, and this happened over the whole of the 22-year period of the study.”
Results of obesity measurements taken in connection with the MONICA studies (Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardio-vascular Disease) in Denmark. The X-axis (horizontal) shows body mass index (BMI), while the Y-axis shows the accumulated frequency. Everybody studied is included at the top of the graph (100 percent on the Y-axis), while the average BMI is placed at 50 percent. The graph is steepest where the most people are represented, while it is flatter where the fewest people are represented. There are few very thin and few very fat people. The measurements were taken in 1974 and 1996. Both fat and thin people had put on weight over the 22 years – and the increase was proportionately the same. (Graph: University of Copenhagen, T. Drivholm)
“The probability that all animals of eight different species put on weight from random causes is one in 10,000,000,” says Hersoug. “This indicates that the animals were affected by environmental factors – and you can speculate on what these environmental factors are.”