10 Reasons Men Are Getting Fatter

There’s an excellent article in the Daily Mail outlining the key reasons men are getting fatter at great risk to the Nation’s health accompanied by an unflattering picture of Piers Brosnan.

The article is inspired by research from Oxford University on obesity  showing that the average man is getting fatter and is more than a stone heavier (7.7kg) than 20 years ago.

The research tallies with official statistics that show that nearly half of British men are overweight, compared with just a third of women, while a quarter of men are officially obese (compared with only 7 per cent in 1987).

The result  – says the article – is an epidemic of obesity-related diseases in men: cases of ­diabetes have risen by almost a third since 2003, while in women they rose by less than a quarter. Overweight men also have much higher rates of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

The key reasons outlined in the article are not simply – as you might expect –overeating and lack of exercise – and there are a number of reasons that are distinctly male.


1. GENETICS: a newly discovered Arrdc3 gene causes weight gain in men but not women

2. ENVIRONMENT: phthalates used as plastic softeners in numerous household products are chemicals that cause men to put on weight and lower their sensitivity to insulin according to the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.

3. AIR POLLUTION: Danish research on people with blood group O found long-term exposure to industrial air pollution makes men obese

4. GENDER PAY GAP: Men spend more time at work than women which can lead to sedentarism (lots of sitting down) and men’s greater tendency to take on the responsibility of high-pressure jobs has an impact on their weight with US research has shows that male bosses are 20 per cent more likely than average men to be overweight. In women, the risk rises only by 7 per cent.

5. STRESS: Japanese researchers have found that when men are stressed and have less than five hours’ sleep a night, it triggers a hormone in the blood that stimulates appetite an effect that has not been seen as strongly in women. Tam Fry, a spokesman for Britains’s National Obesity Forum says that high stress, time-starved lifestyles are pushing men to pile on the pounds. “If you spend a full day of increasing work hours and stress, you want to go home, sit down in front of the TV, have a drink and eat snacks” he says.

6. DIET AND GENDER:  A study of more than 14,000 adults by the American Society for Microbiology shows that men are more likely to eat meat and ­poultry, while women are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables.

7. MALE VANITY: Dr Kerri McPherson, a chartered health psychologist at Glasgow ­Caledonian University,  says that psychologically men would rather be overweight than too thin. She says: “The ideal for a man is a body that is very muscly. Ideally, they wanted to achieve that bulked-up body image through muscle, but very few achieved that, so they would rather be bulked up by fat and cover it with clothes.”

8. SOCIAL NORMS: Fat men make their male friends fat. Research shows that if a man has a male friend who becomes fat, his risk of becoming overweight is doubled. “One of the reasons for this is that when it comes to body image, we compare ourselves primarily to people of the same sex and men who have large friends get a distorted idea of what constitutes “healthy” – says Nicholas Christakis, one of the researchers and co-author of the book Connected: The Amazing Power Of Social ­Networks And How They Shape Our Lives.

9. PEER PRESSURE: There is also peer pressure, as “any man learns if he tries to eat muesli while male friends are tucking into a full English ­breakfast. His friends will only refrain from teasing him if he is fresh from ­coronary bypass surgery” says the articles author John Naish

10. SEXIST HEALTH CAMPAIGNS: According to Dr McPherson healthy eating messages are targetted at women not men and must be altered so they suit men’s psyches. She says: “The stuff men hear about healthy eating is dressed up in terms of dieting for thinness and prettiness. That is a turn-off for men. If you pushed the links between healthy eating and ­exercise, and improved muscularity, that could prove far more persuasive.”

Research in this field is in its infancy compared with studies of women says the article put it all gives weight – if you’ll pardon the pun – to the argument that gender is a social determinant of health and health research and campaigns need to target men and boys specifically if we want to improve male health.

Read about The Men’s Network’s plans to Improve Male Health here.


Glen Poole is UK co-ordinator for International Men's Day, Director at the consultancy Helping Men and news editor of insideMAN magazine. Follow him on twitter @HelpingMen or find out more about his work at www.helpingmen.co.uk.

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Posted in World News On Men's Issues
One comment on “10 Reasons Men Are Getting Fatter

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