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High altitude helps people lose weight, study shows

Ernest Gill, dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)

02-22-10

Munich (dpa) - Obese people lose weight at high altitudes and keep it off for at least four weeks, according to a team of German scientists.

Independent of any other change in lifestyle, high altitudes appear to increase metabolism, decrease appetite and lower diastolic blood pressure, the researchers report in the journal Obesity.

Understanding the mechanisms behind this weight loss could provide a basis for new treatments for obesity, they say.

Florian Lippl and colleagues at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich studied the effect of living in high altitudes for one week on the body weight of 20 obese males, while no other change was made to their exercise routine or food availability.

At the end of the week, their body weight, food intake, and diastolic blood pressure had been significantly lowered, effects that were still present four weeks after returning from high altitude.

The low levels of oxygen present at high altitudes could be responsible for an observed increase in leptin, a hormone thought to suppress appetite, though the causes of this need to be further studied, the researchers say.

The lasting weight reduction seen at high altitudes is primarily due to an increased metabolism and decreased food intake, though the reasons behind these changes remain unclear and may be a temporary effect of the body acclimatizing to new surroundings.

Copyright 2010 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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