Science Shows It's Way Harder to Stay Thin Now Than It Was 30 Years Ago

Science Shows It's Way Harder to Stay Thin Now Than It Was 30 Years Ago
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Millennials, it seems, have a big problem. A big, fat problem.

While it has long been known that Americans are getting fatter, a new study has bad news for millennials and potentially all their generational successors. According to research published in the academic journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, adults today are less able to maintain a healthy weight than those of previous generations even when food intake and exercise levels remain the same. 

In a dietary version of the Red Queen's Race, the findings indicate that adults today would have to eat less and exercise more just to maintain a healthy weight — and that this phenomenon is likely attributable to factors not yet fully understood.

"Factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI over time," the  researchers wrote. "Further research is necessary to identify these factors and to determine the mechanisms through which they affect body weight."

In other words, even if you eat and exercise exactly the same way your parents did, you'll still come away heavier than they have.

The news comes as an added blow as Americans and Westerners today spend more and more of their time sitting in front of computers eating increasingly unhealthy food.

"Obesity is a significant problem for young adults. I work for a community-based health center where I frequently see adults in their 20s and 30s who are obese or morbidly obese," nutritionist Shabnam Ahamed Greenfield told Mic. "This has far-reaching consequences for an individual physically, mentally, socially and financially, not to mention the healthcare costs this person will incur for decades to come." 

Another study in the journal Acta Paediatrica found that thanks to computer-based sedentary lifestyles, members of the developed world's newest cohort, Generation Z, were generally weaker and less physically fit than their counterparts from just a few decades ago. The number of children unable to hold their own weight on a pull-up bar doubled between 1998 and 2008. Meanwhile, modern agribusiness and processed food have greatly increased the amount of unhealthy and sugary options available to everybody, and even food that seems healthy often hides fatty secrets.  

And so — like love handles — this is unfortunately news that will probably stick around in the coming years.

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Jon Levine

Jon Levine is a staff writer at Mic, covering politics and people. He is based in New York and can be reached at JLevine@mic.com.

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