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Get high to lose weight?

Posted by Richard on February 25, 2010

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? I mean, what about those infamous munchies? Oh, wait — they're talking about altitude! German researchers say that living at higher altitudes seems to increase metabolism, decrease appetite, and lower blood pressure:

Florian Lippl and colleagues at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich studied the effect of living in high altitudes for one week on the body weight of 20 obese males, while no other change was made to their exercise routine or food availability.

At the end of the week, their body weight, food intake, and diastolic blood pressure had been significantly lowered, effects that were still present four weeks after returning from high altitude.

The low levels of oxygen present at high altitudes could be responsible for an observed increase in leptin, a hormone thought to suppress appetite, though the causes of this need to be further studied, the researchers say.

The lasting weight reduction seen at high altitudes is primarily due to an increased metabolism and decreased food intake, though the reasons behind these changes remain unclear and may be a temporary effect of the body acclimatizing to new surroundings. 

This was a small, short-term study, so clearly there's more to learn. But the effect may not be so temporary. For some time, Colorado has had the lowest obesity rate in the nation and is the only state with a rate below 20%. Sure, there are significant lifestyle differences between the average Coloradan and Mississippian. But the altitude may be a factor. 

Either way, here's my advice: You'll be thinner and healthier if you decide that life's a mountain, not a beach.

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