We’ve heard a lot of reasons why we might be failing at our diets in the past. Not realising certain foods contain heaps of sugar. Eating too late before bed, or not early enough in the mornings. Getting our portion sizes all wrong.
But according to experts, there’s another underlying reason why we might be putting on weight without realising, and it’s all to do with the noise in your life.
That’s right, according to research excessive noise not only puts your hearing at risk, but it can also affect your health, including your weight, with too much sound being linked to weight gain, high blood pressure and many other problems. So much so, that some experts believe we should be attempting a ‘Noise Diet’!
Could too much noise be causing you too put on weight?
What the experts said
According to a 2011 Danish study in the European Heart Journal, for every ten-decibel increase in nearby road noise, the risk of stroke for those aged over 65 increased by more than a quarter.
And more recently, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found people who lived near a busy road were more likely to gain weight around their middle than those whose homes were in quieter neighbourhoods!
Living in a noisy area and suffer from sleep problems? Apart from the obvious issues of feeling tired when kept awake, a lack of sleep from noise can also impact on our health by leading to depression and day-time fatigue, according to Dr Anna Hansell from Imperial College London.
Speaking to Mail Online, Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at Queen Mary, University of London, explains the impact noise has on our bodies. ‘Noise is a stressor that raises our arousal levels, influencing the nervous system and hormone levels in the body.’
And it’s not just about volume… ‘Although volume counts for a lot, any kind of noise can be annoying, depending on the individual,’ he explains. ‘A person may find specific sounds particularly annoying, such as the hum of a fridge for example, or children crying.’
The 6 main noise culprits
1. Your family
Yep, those little monsters might be causing longer-term damage than just the odd sore head.
Dr Backus, the managing director of Audio 3, which produces a noise level monitor called SoundBadge helped analyse the results of a typical mother’s day for the Daily Mail.
The report showed that the mother who was being monitored, 39-year-old Londoner Maria Eleftheriou’s, daily dose of sound was a staggering 42 per cent over the safe limit.
The loudest sounds she heard throughout the day were surprisingly during storytime at home, and not so surprisingly, when there was some ‘crying, screaming and laughing’ from her six-year-old twins.
Dr Backus went on to explain babies can cry at around 110 decibels, and may be more damaging than other types of 110 decibel sound. ‘Babies tend to cry at a particularly piercing pitch, measured as 2-4 kiloherz — where our ears are more sensitive — which could potentially do more damage to our hearing than other frequencies.’ He told the Daily Mail.
Did you know that around 40% of people in Europe are exposed to road traffic noise levels above 55 decibels? The World Health Organisation says 55 decibels is the level at which health issues can occur.
It’s not good news for the diet either, as research from Karolinska University in Sweden suggests that for every 10 decibel rise in traffic noise level, there is also a centimetre increase in waistline. Eek!
Hospitals are full of scary and noisy machines, and it’s their irregular bleeping sounds, not to mention constant doors banging, that have been linked to an increase in stress levels.
According to BT.com, councils received more than 200,000 noise complaints about neighbours between January and September last year. If you’re familiar with blaring TVs, barking dogs and couples arguing, you’ll understand how annoying it is – and that’s just if you’re not unlucky enough to live next to a drum set!
This not only affects your health if it’s causing a lack of sleep (which can lead to depression and weight gain), but the sheer noise levels can cause the lining of arteries to contract, raising blood pressure and increasing our chances of having a heart attack.
Normal office noise comes in at 50 decibels, but a noisy office can be as loud as 80 – double the recommended level. Whether it’s noisy typing, chatter around you, floorboards creaking or even the air conditioning, these can all contribute to noise-induced health issues, which could mean an increased risk of heart attack and weight gain.
Living under a flight path is not an ideal scenario for obvious reasons, but did you know it could be affecting your health? Last year, a study of 3.6 million people who lived near Heathrow, by Imperial College London, found the risks of stroke, heart and circulatory disease were 10-20% higher in areas with the highest levels of aircraft noise.
How to start your Noise Diet
1. Take a noise break
Don’t fall into the trap of covering annoying noise with more noise, as this will just mean you’re ‘creating more noise stressors’, according to Professor Stansfeld. Instead, try taking regular noise breaks. Find a quiet space in a park or even the bathroom at home (it is more likely to be soundproof because of the wall tiles and with a smaller — or even no — window).
‘It doesn’t have to be deathly quiet,’ he says. Just find a quiet space in a park or even the bathroom at home.
2. Buy a plant
Research has found that plants absorb sound waves and reduce noise, making them a great option for a noisy office.
3. Wear earplugs
Being exposed to more than 55 decibels at night, similar to the level of normal conversation, could trigger high blood pressure and cause heart attacks. Pop in some earplugs if you’re having trouble sleeping, and consider double glazing if you don’t have any.