Those seeking to lose weight should head for the hills

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February 5, 2010

2:49 AM

A study conducted by researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Hospital in Munich has suggested that it is easier for obese men to lose weight at high altitudes.

The project studied 20 males who weighed an average of 232 pounds as they spent one week at a research station just below the summit of Germany’s tallest mountain, approximately 8,700 feet above sea level.
While at the research station, the men were free to eat as much as they wanted and their physical activity was limited to taking slow walks around the facility to prevent them from exercising more than normal. The men lost three to four pounds on average and kept the weight off for at least four weeks after they returned to low altitudes.

“It’s remarkable that the effects lasted after they returned from the mountain,” says Robert Roach, research director of the Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado in Denver said. “Whatever it is that promotes weight loss at high altitudes may be more potent in heavy people because it provides a lasting effect.”

The men all had Metabolic Syndrome, a disorder that encompasses a number of health problems including too much fat around the waist. This condition increases a variety of risk factors such as blood-sugar intolerance, high blood pressure and obesity, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

During their time on the mountain, the men’s metabolisms increased, they consumed fewer calories, and their blood-sugar levels and diastolic pressure improved. Their levels of leptin, a hormone known to suppress appetites, also increased at high altitudes.

“The new study is intriguing and suggests that we need to do a lot more research into the effects of high altitudes on our weight and our health,” Richard Atkinson, the director of Obetech Obesity Research Center of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said.

While once-a-month mountain climbing isn’t the most practical way to shed a few pounds, moving to a high-altitude city instead of a low-altitude city isn’t a bad idea if given a choice.

According to scientists, these results could pave the way for new obesity treatments.

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