What Causes Obesity?

What is Obesity?

Obesity is excessive accumulation of fat in the body resulting in health problems. Obesity is calculated with a measurement known as Body Mass Index (BMI). People with a BMI of 30 or greater are termed to be obese. People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are termed to be overweight.

By looking at food, I gain weight” is a general complaint raised by people who are obese. Others admit that they eat a lot. But the way the quantity of food affects body weight is just one reason that we know. Much thought has gone into finding the causes of obesity and finally, scientists have come up with answers.

What causes Obesity? -Expert opinions

William A. Banks, M.D., professor of geriatrics in the department of internal medicine and professor of pharmacological and physiological science at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, claims that he, along with a group of scientists, have discovered the precise reasons for obesity.

The scientists used mice to look at how leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that tells us to stop eating, gets into the brain. They found that in obese mice, high triglycerides, a type of fat in the bloodstream, prevents leptin from getting into the brain, where it can do its work in turning off feeding and burning calories.

“High triglycerides are blocking the leptin from getting into the brain. If leptin can’t get into the brain, it can’t tell you to stop eating,” says Banks, who is the principal investigator and a staff physician at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis.

Other causes of Obesity

A person is more likely to develop obesity if one or both parents are obese. Genetics also affect hormones involved in fat regulation.

A diet high in simple carbohydrates
Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain.

Slow metabolism
People with a sedentary lifestyle burn fewer calories than people who are active. The National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that physical inactivity was strongly correlated with weight gain in both the sexes.

Potential Metabolic Disorder
Only 2% of the total population is suffering from this. You have to consult with your doctor if your are experiencing this problem.

Emotional Eating
Controlling and recognizing your emotions can also help you to reduce weight. Reduce stress. Stress also causes overeating resulting in obesity.

Medications associated with weight gain include certain antidepressants, anti-convulsants, diabetes medications etc. Weight gain may also be seen with some high blood pressure medications and antihistamines.

Social Causes

  • Physical activity has lessened now a days and our lifestyle has become sedentary.
  • Vast expansions of fast food chains which contain large portion of fats in their servings.
  • Our children have become accustomed to sitting and playing video games rather than playing outdoor games.
  • This sedentary lifestyle is not limited to children and teenagers but it has become the standard lifestyle for many adults as well.

Genetics – A detailed description
Genes are the chemical instructions which overlook the functioning of all the aspects of the body. Well being and ailments have their origin in these chemical structures. Most of the wide-spread and deadly conditions are caused owing to the change in them. How potent is the influence of obesity gene in triggering weight gain? In November 2007, researchers from the University of Cambridge, Oxford University and Cancer Research UK, London, found that one FTO gene over-activity can be linked to obesity. The results of their study was published in the Science Express.

What Researchers Learnt About Obesity Gene – FTO?

  • Variation in this gene is associated with a higher tendency of overeating and weight gain.
  • People carrying two copies of this variant gene can gain weight up to three kilograms on average.
  • The studies found that this gene produces a natural chemical enzyme which directly changes the structure of DNA molecules.
  • The result can be apparent in the form of turning on and off of some vital genes present in the hypothalamus region of the brain.
  • Controlling of hunger and feeling of satiation are processed in these regions of the hypothalamus.
  • Levels of this gene are found to vary by feeding and fasting.

The finding that FTO gene releases enzymes associated with variation of DNA was found to be quite significant and surprising by the researchers. The discovery opened up ways for developing anti-obesity drugs which could target this gene. However, a detailed understanding of the mechanism by which this gene functions was left to be known.

Three years later, researchers at the University of Oxford and Medical Research Council (MRC) confirmed the role of this gene in overeating and obesity on experimental mice. Their study findings are published in the November 2010 issue of the journal Nature Genetics. However, the mechanism of working of the FTO gene still remains a challenge before the scientists.

How Could Obesity be Prevented?

In spite of the factors such as genetics, hormones etc., obesity can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include making a change in your daily habits. Lifestyle changes are more likely to work for long-term instead of quick fixes such as diets or surgery. Here are a few lifestyle changes to prevent obesity:

  • Eat healthy, avoid junk foods and always prefer eating food with fruits and vegetables.
  • Find ways to be active by walking, climbing the stairs, doing household chores etc.
  • Incorporate exercise every day which can help you to lose fat faster. You can also try joining a gym.
  • Do not make food a source of comfort or security. If you are depressed or lonely, find ways of overcoming it by speaking to a friend or involving yourself in a hobby.

Latest Obesity Statistics in the United States 2009

The government has declared Obesity a national epidemic along with Type 2 diabetes in 2009. Some statistics were available in a report released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in June. These statistics were:

  • Two-thirds of American adults are obese.
  • Obese children have 70 percent higher risk of developing obesity associated health complications.
  • In 49 states, the adult obesity rate is higher than 20 percent.
  • In 23 states, the rate is increasing at a faster rate and not even a single state has reported of decline in these rates from 2008.
  • Childhood Obesity is highest in Mississippi (44.4 percent) between the age group of 10-17 years and is lowest in Minnesota and Utah (23.1 percent).
  • Mississippi(32.5 percent), Alabama (31.2 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent) and Tennessee (30.2 percent) are the four states with highest adult obesity.

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