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August 12, 2021- by Steven Greer, MD
I have been in Southern California for a week and have made a fascinating observation. I do not think anyone else in medicine has talked about this, to my knowledge.
I have a wellness medical practice that focuses on keeping people healthy with nutrition, exercise, etc. I started to realize a few years ago during my trips to Southern California that something was going on. Everybody seemed to have much less body fat out here. Why?
When I ask people what their thoughts were as to why, the answers were the same: People in Southern California go to the gym more, most people think. But that is nonsense, I argue.
I have observed too many average working class Joe in an auto body shop, etc. who have low body fat. Those guys are not vain actors in LA. They do not go to LA fitness.
I think I know what is going on. The unique environment in Southern California is one of low humidity and constant sunshine, or the Mediterranean climate. Nowhere else in the U.S. can one be outdoors almost all of the year. In Arizona, for example, it is just too hot and there is also no ocean. On the East Coast, even though they have beaches, it is too humid and miserable to walk around outdoors much. One cannot go outside in Miami for more than five minutes. The Midwest is obviously not the same as Southern California.
So, people are outdoors more often with pleasurable weather in Southern California. I believe that triggers a whole series of hormonal changes.
What we eat is all driven by hormones. Ghrelin and leptin are the two obvious ones. Lesser known is the role of the stress hormone cortisol. When one is stressed out, cortisol causes one to overheat. People with stressful jobs, like lawyers working on a big legal brief deadline, will find themselves overeating tremendously. It is from stress. There are probably other circadian rhythm hormones involved too. Vitamin D might also play a factor.
So, this unique weather environment that allows people to go outdoors all throughout the year triggers hormonal changes that makes people not desire to overeat bad food, I argue. It has little to do with exercise, I hypothesize.
People out here eat more salads and less fried food. That is because they do not have an appetite for the garbage we eat in the rest of the country. I have been out here for a week and have already noticed a big change in my appetite. Even the local Walmart I went to had an entire refrigerated isle with nothing but meatless or healthy meals. In the East Coast, the healthy food section is literally one refrigerator about 5 feet wide at any grocery store. The Demographic of people going to Walmart out here is the same as the people going to Walmart in Ohio. The people just obviously have a greater demand for healthy food.
Yes. I am well aware that there is a cultural differences out here. People are more aware of healthy lifestyles. But what drives that culture is an underlying hormonal balance, I argue. The state of Ohio could engage in an expensive propaganda campaign to promote healthy food and it would not change behaviors, I bet.
I have not done a literature search on this. There might be someone else who has discussed this. But I have never run across it. This could be a novel observation on my part.