These four hypotheses may not lead to big, fat breakthroughs in obesity research, but they score high points for creativity.
Microwave ovens: Jane Wardle, a professor of clinical psychology at University College London, floated this theory at the 2007 British Cheltenham Science Festival after discovering an overlap between rising obesity rates in the U.K. and the microwave's ascension to common household appliance in the mid-1980s. TV dinners and faster, easier access to food were cited as contributing factors.
Ear infections: Several studies presented last year at the American Psychological Association conference hinted at a link between childhood ear infections and obesity later in life. One study revealed that individuals with a moderate to severe history of otitis media (middle-ear infection) were 62 percent more likely to be obese; possibly, researchers speculate, because the infections damaged nerves involved in taste, affecting later food choices.
Air-conditioning: This theory holds that being exposed to less variation in extreme temperatures, thanks to the modern conveniences of heating and AC, means our bodies don't have to work as hard or burn as many calories to maintain a comfortable 98.6˚F. Hard data is lacking, but the idea has long been accepted as fact in the field of animal husbandry, where temperature is manipulated to encourage growth in pigs.
Relationships: Your social circle can influence how round you get, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Analyzing data from more than 12,000 people over 32 years, researchers found a strong correlation between weight gain and relationships. Married people were 37 percent more likely to become obese within two to four years of their spouses doing so than people whose spouses stayed trim.single page
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