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Into Thin Air

A new obesity study suggests hitting the heights can mean dropping the pounds

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration Jeff Quinn


IN STUDY AFTER STUDY of physical health in the U.S., Colorado wins the “fittest state” award. What does Colorado have that we don’t? asks the rest of the country. Well, world-class whitewater rafting and mountain biking, to name a couple of things, but also this: It’s farther from the center of the earth.

Earlier this year, the International Journal of Obesity published a study by researchers at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences comparing data from a health survey of 400,000 Americans with environmental and geographical factors. The researchers found that even when education, employment status, income, smoking, physical activity and diet are accounted for, people who live at higher elevations are less likely to be obese. In fact, those who live near sea level have a 4.6 times greater chance of being obese than those who live above 10,000 feet.

The research team believes this might have to do with the hormone changes or lower oxygen levels experienced at high altitudes—both of which can decrease appetite. So go ahead and book that Denver vacation, but remember: Results may vary, depending on rate of elk burger con­sumption

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