Obesity refers to a state of a person's bodyweight when it's 20% or more above normal bodyweight.
Obesity increases risks of developing high blood pressure, diabetes (type 2), heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease and cancer of the breast, prostate and colon.
In the US, about 300,000 deaths per year are directly related to obesity.
It's not just a health hazard, it's a life threatening disease as well.
Understanding what causes obesity will help you battle it more effectively.
And surprise!Surprise! You'd think that "no exercise and overeating" are the culprits.
These 2 of course are the main causes since we are bombarded daily with plenty of high calorie food, but because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we don't exercise at all or don't do enough exercise, so we struggle real hard not to get fat.
But there's also other causes - other than the "big 2" - "no exercise and overeating", that contribute to obesity.
Ahem...If you hate exercise and like to eat, you can now breathe easier knowing that "no exercise and overeating" are not the only culprits that cause obesity.
Right on. I bet you want to know what're these other factors that cause obesity. Let's have a look at them and see whether they resonate with you.
How People Become Obese ?
Sleeeplessness Causes Obesity
You think it should be the exact opposite, right? That not enough sleep would cause you to lose weight (because it affects your body's health), not to gain weight!
However, several studies suggest that there's a relationship between how much you sleep and your weight gain.
The first is the US Health & Nutrition Examination Survey which concludes that if you sleep less than 7 hours per night, you tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than a person who sleeps more hours.
The other is a study conducted by the US Nurses'Health, which tracks 68,000 women for 16 years in which it finds that women who sleep an average of 5 hours per night gain more weight than women who sleep 6 hours, who in turn gain more weight than women who sleep 7 hours.
Obesity reserachers have suggested that this is so due to the fact that if you don't have enough sleep, your metabolism could be changed as Leptin, the hormone that signals satiety decreases while Ghrelin, the hormone which signals hunger, increases and this cranks up your appetite.
We all know obesity affects sleep, so these studies' results which say that not enough sleep could lead to weight gain are really "eye-openers".
And we're sleeping less, that's a fact we can't deny, given our hectic lifestyle and the firece demands life put on us.
The Americans slept an average of 8.5 hours per night in 1960. In a 2002 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, the average hour had decreased to less than 7 hours per night.
The results show that the decreased hours of sleep was partly associated with the increase in obesity.
Prenatal Effects Cause Obesity
The odds that you'll become fat could be set, at least in part, before you're born. It's shown that obese mothers would likely give birth to children who'll become obese themselves later in life.
You could say that this is largely due to genetics but there's evidence to suggest that some "intra-uterine programming" has taken place here.
In the study for mice during pregnancy, offsprings of mice fed with high-fat food are more likely to become fat than offsprings of mice fed with normal food.
Fat Equals Fecund - This Is What Causes Obesity
If you're fatter, chances are you'll have more children. A study carried out by Minot State University in North Dakota concludes this.
It shows that there's a small but significant correlation between BMI and reproductive rates as normal weight women have an average of 3.2 children while overweight and obese women have an average of 3.5 children.
The intriguing question is this:
Does having more children cause women to gain weight or does being overweight or obese cause women to produce more children?
Answer is probably both.
Having more children increases your chance of escalating into the "fat" territory, if for no other reason than poor sleep.
On the other hand, being obese or overweight can lead to lower socio-economic status, which is in turn associated with having more children, the study reveals.
Older In Age is What Causes Obesity
Well, if you're older, you tend to be fatter than others! Survey by the US National Center for Health Statistics found that if you were aged between 40 - 79, you were 3 times as likely to be heavier as those aged younger.
The most probable reason?
Ah...Sigh...Due to decrease in your metabolism.
As you get older, your body's ability to metabolize food slows down. This is why you would notice that you eat the same amount of food and do the same activities as you did when you were 20 years old, but at age 40, you gain weight.
Temperature Effects Cause Obesity
Studies have shown that in comfortable temperature, you use less energy, thereby burning less body fat. In hotter temperature environment, you'll sweat a lot more which in turn uses more energy. There's also evidence to suggest that you'll reduce the amount of food intake in hotter temperature environment.
Suddenly Quitting Smoke Causes Obesity
If you're a smoker, you're likely thinner than others. So, if you cut down smoking or quit altogether, you'll pile on the pounds, though no one knows why this is so, most likely is because nicotine is an appetite suppressant and seemingly can raise your metabolic rate.
The US National Center for Health Statistics calculates that smokers kicking the habit have been responsible for a small but significant portion of the US obesity epidemic.
The Center works out that smokers who quit in the previous decade are more likely to be obese than smokers and those who never smoke. Among men, almost 50% of the quitters are obese compared with 37% of non-smokers and 28% of smokers.
However it is strongly advised to quit smoking and have balanced diet to avoid obesity.
Pollution Can Cause Obesity
Our environment has become more polluted and inevitably, we're exposed more to pollutants like industrial chemicals (dyes, plastic wastes, pesticides, herbicides, gaseous compound, solvents).
There's evidence that a small amount of some of these chemicals can lead to weight gain. Studies have found that when people are exposed to these chemicals found in food, the higher the toxic level in the food, the greater the body weight.
This is because some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors that disrupt the functions of hormones like oestrogen.
You know right, when your hormone (oestrogen) does not function well, it wreaks havoc in your body, including weight gain?
Drug Use Causes Obesity
Some drugs have ugly side effects - one of the most common ones - weight gain.
Want to know which drugs?
Well, drug for high blood pressure, is one.
Drugs to treat HIV, is another.
Endometriosis drugs to treat endometriosis, is a classic example that can fatten you up.
Contraceptive pills will pile pounds on you.
Diabetes medications will pad you out.
So, don't be too over-dependent on drugs.
First Child In Older Women - A Cause For Obesity
The mean age of women giving first birth in the US has increased from 21.4 in 1970 to 24.9 in 2000.
The implication for this is that an older woman at first birth seems to be a risk factor for obesity.
The results from the US National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute's study found that the odds of a child being obese increases by about 14% for every 5 extra years of his or her mother's age, though no one knows for sure why.
Could poor sleep cause this? Probably.
Also, as family size decreases, first-borns make up for a greater share of the population - evidenced in the US wherein in 1976, 9.6% of women in their 40s had one child but in 2004, the percentage had increased to 17.4%. This combination of older women and more single children could be contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Liking Fat Person Dwells to Comfort Zone
I'm sure you've seen the pattern -
We tend to pair off according to looks.
So we do like wise when comes to body size.
If you're thin, you're more likely to marry a thin person and if you're fat, you're more likely to marry a fat person. The thinking pushes into comfort zone and couple enjoys their companion - no one raises objection on building up excess fat in the body and accepts it as part of lifestyle.
On its own, this would not account for the increase in obesity but if we include other factors such as genetics and obese people produce more children, they could amplify the increase in obesity from other causes.
In conclusion, obesity isn't due to a single cause but is multifactorial in origin.
The causes discussed here are by no means exhaustive.
You could have other causes like genetics, overeating, slower metabolism, gender, illness, psychological factors, diet rich in simple carbohydrates, frequency of eating.
Can you then jump in glee because "no exercise and overeating" are not the only major causes of obesity? Since you hate to exercise and like to eat? (Aren't we all?)
Can you then don't do exercise and eat with no restrain?
Hey, certainly not! A reasonable amount of exercise and healthy eating are still on the card for you...
What the obesity researchers try to say is this -
when we think of what causes obesity, we normally point to "no exercise and overeating" as the culprits.
Oh, they are.
But if you're still on the heavier side even after doing enough exercise and eat healthily, then you might want to look beyond these "big 2 " factors to find out the true reason(s) for your weight problem.
Other factors like those mentioned above could cause obesity as well.
It's good for you to find out, to better address your problem.
However, adopting a healthy lifestyle that inculcates the habit of exercise and eating healthy food should be your first priority, to stave off further weight gain.