If you’ve been packing on the pounds, your home address could be as much to blame than your poutine addiction.
Swedish researchers have reported that exposure to noise from traffic, trains, and planes is linked to a larger waistline. Basically, our exposure to the sounds of city streets and our metabolism are related.
The researchers found that the increased risk of a larger waist increased with the number of sources of noise an individual was exposed to at the same time. The risk jumped from 25 per cent for those only exposed to one source, to nearly double for those exposed to all three sources.
Data was collected on more than 5,000 people living in five suburban and rural areas around Stockholm who had participated in the Stockholm Diabetes Prevention Program from 1992 to 1998. Between 2002 and 2006 the participants completed a questionnaire that inquired about their lifestyle, current state of health, levels of psychological stress, insomnia, and job strain.
They were asked about their exposure to noise from planes, trains, and automobiles. (Insert John Candy joke here…)
The participants also had their blood pressure checked, were tested for diabetes, and had their waists and hips measured.
The study found that among women there was a 0.08-inch increase in waist size linked to every additional 5 decibels in traffic noise exposure, and an increase in waist-to-hip ratio of 0.06 inches for every additional 5 decibels in traffic noise exposure in men.
Though cautioning that it was only an observational study and that no definitive conclusions could therefore be drawn, lead researcher Charlotta Eriksson, from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said that traffic noise should be recognized as an important environmental health hazard. She stressed that it therefore needs to be addressed in urban planning.
She said that traffic noise maybe more detrimental to health than previously thought, citing earlier research that showed correlations between traffic noise and high blood pressure and heart attacks.
“But since abdominal obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and more and more people live in densely populated areas in close vicinity of large roads, railways, and airports, noise constitutes a serious public health threat,” said Eriksson.
Though the idea that noise may be a contributing factor to extra weight around our middles may seem a tad farfetched, Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, points out that such studies are “notorious for revealing correlations that aren’t about cause and effect.”
For example, he points to the fact that noise exposure may be higher in poorer neighbourhoods where food choices are poorer as well – and the latter could be the real culprit of increased abdominal fat.
He said the new study, however, was careful to control for such variables. According to the study, the findings were not influenced by socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, or exposure to air pollution. What did seem to be a factor was age: the association between belly fat and traffic noise was only found for those younger than 60.
“The main mechanism underlying this association is that traffic noise may increase the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, which is known to stimulate the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area. Noise-induced sleep disturbance may also play a significant role,” Eriksson said.
So, basically, you may want to chose your next apartment wisely if you want to maintain that figure.
The report was published online May 25 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.