Understanding the Various Causes of Human Obesity
Written by , Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D..
Published on November 4th, 2018
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a major problem in the United States today, and is one of the leading
chronic conditions that contribute to numerous other medical issues
which have a significant impact on overall health, mortality, and
Many People in America are Obese?
last fifty years, obesity has become a much more common health
condition. Today, more than one-third of adults are obese, 35.7%
according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Obesity is a major strain on the U.S. Economy, and
researchers suggest that the epidemic costs Americans as much as $150
billion dollars due to medical costs and other economic factors.
it is easy to simply blame the individual for his or her obesity, it
is important to recognize that there is a serious genetic question
that needs to be answered to help us combat obesity most effectively:
What factors contribute to obesity? The goal of the remainder of this
article is to discuss three primary causes regarding why obesity is a
problem for human beings.
Number One: Obesity is a Genetic Issue which Arises at Birth
potential cause of obesity is genetic. The Diencephalon is
responsible for many of the core functions of the body, and is the
prime regulator for various hormones. The Diencephalon is actually a
collection of different working sections of the brain, including the
Hypothalamus and the Thalamus. Although the Diencephalon is not
directly responsible for the release of hormones like Testosterone
and Human Growth Hormone, it send signals to target organs for the
hormones to be manufactured (by the testes in regard to Testosterone
and by the pituitary gland in regard to HGH).
to obesity, some patients genetically have stronger signals for
hunger, which encourages them to over eat. Other people have have
issues with thyroid signaling from the hypothalamus, which prevents
them from burning fat effectively. When patients struggle with
genetic traits such as these, their struggle with obesity will start
early in life and can occur even when parents provide their child
with a healthy diet.
cause of obesity would explain certain hereditary conundrums, such as
how two children raised by the same parents can have significantly
different weights in spite of being fed the same meals every day.
Number Two: Obesity is a Genetic Issue which Arises Later in Life
some people suffer from obesity as a result of propensities which
they were born with, that still leaves many more that subsisted at a
healthy weight when they were younger that struggle with obesity
after adolescence even though they have not changed their diet.
heard of the Freshman Fifteen, and we understand the environmental
basis for it, but what causes otherwise healthy people to develop
obesity in the absence of environmental factors? Life-changes can
have a negative impact on the way that your body processes calories.
Take Menopause for example.
menopause, the normal hormonal baseline for women changes
dramatically as Estrogen levels plummet. The sex organs are no longer
active, which changes the hormone balance of the body. After
Menopause, the ovaries produce significantly less Estrogen.
result, the negative feedback mechanism produced by Estrogen in the
blood stream no longer recirculates back to the brain in the same
concentration. This causes the brain to produce significantly greater
levels of the precursor hormones which stimulate Estrogen production
in women that have yet to experience Menopause.
production of these hormones reaches a critical point, it strains the
Diencephalon, causing it to refocus energy away from other healthy
processes and into the production of these sex-hormone precursors.
This is actually the primary cause of the various symptoms of
menopause, including hot flashes, emotional instability, and an
increase in weight gain.
case of this form of Obesity, the development of the disorder is not
necessarily the result of abnormal eating habits, but with changes in
the way that our bodies react to our normal consumption of calories.
Number Three: Obesity is an Environmental Issue
first two causes that we have discussed explain how people with
healthy diets can experience obesity. The third form of obesity is
the most common form in America. Obesity is most frequently a
condition which is caused by the actions of the individual, although
the actions of the individual can contribute to temporary or
permanent hormone imbalance.
people don't understand is that the way you eat can actually have a
physiological impact on the make-up of your brain. This means that if
you have gotten into bad habits with your diet and exercise routine,
the way your brain responds to food will actually change. In many
ways, your brain will start to function more like people that were
born with obesity.
can lose the ability to properly regulate blood sugar, for example.
Or your stomach will start to send stronger signals to the brain when
you eat reasonably because your body is used to receiving increased
calories. As a result, your body develops a sensitivity to Ghrelin,
encouraging you to overeat.
Triggers Alter Calorie Use and Storage
triggers for weight storage cause the body to divert calories which
were originally intended to be broken down into immediate energy and
start converting them directly into adipose fat. The development and
aggregation of adipose fat is the literal definition of obesity. Our
bodies change the way that they perceive both calories and energy
usage, causing the body to place an emphasis on energy storage rather
than energy circulation.
there are a variety of reasons why weight gain occurs, when your body
switches from utilizing energy from the food you eat to storing it,
it is bad for your health. From an evolutionary perspective, this was
beneficial, because it allowed humans to thrive even when food
availability was irregular, but in today's American food-abundant
society, this ability to store fat has an imminently negative effect
upon health and longevity.
Causes of Obesity:
environmental obesity, the body changes the way it utilizes and
stores fat as a result of food intake which vastly outweighs
nutritional requirements for the day. Although it may seem like there
is a direct correlation between calories consumed and obesity, the
link is not so clearly defined. Some people's bodies are more
flexible with regard to adjusting for different levels of caloric
intake, while it seems that others have a propensity to gain weight
and the Sedentary Lifestyle
cause of environmental obesity is the result of changes in activity
level. It is possible to maintain the same diet and gain weight
because your activity level has dropped. Some people spend their
college years working out and become couch potatoes after they
graduate. Other people may love working out but may experience
injuries or other factors which prevent them from maintaining the
same level activity.
gain can even be the result of changes in climate. Someone that once
lived in a cold climate could move to a temperate environment where
their bodies do not expend the same level of energy for temperature
control, contributing to weight gain.
and Changes in Food Availability
factor which can contribute to obesity is a sudden change in food
availability. If an individual experiences an extended period of
deprivation, whether that be the result of famine, poverty, chronic
illness, or anorexia, the Diencephalon adjusts in order to adapt to
the reduced availability and consumption of calories. After
conditions change and food availability increases, this can overwhelm
the Diencephalon, causing the body to store fat at a significantly
historical example of this form of obesity comes from World War II.
In one case, approximately six thousand refugees from Poland were
delivered from Russia to India. Their conditions in Russia were
deplorable and food was very scarce. In India, they lived in a camp
where they were fed a standard military rations and were provided
cash in order to round out their needs. After only a few months, 85%
of the Polish refugees had developed obesity.
in America Today
of the most common causes of obesity is the result of the food that
we eat, and the availability of calories and nutrition contained
within that food. In a healthy, modern diet, people should subsist on
a diet which provides calories inefficiently, but provides nutrition
efficiently. This means that foods like vegetables and lean meats are
vital to a healthy diet because they provide high levels of
nutritional content while not providing excessive calories.
and Processed Food
today is that the foods which are cheapest and most widely available
are processed and refined foods. These foods provide calories very
efficiently, but they do not provide nutrition efficiently. Snacks,
fast food, and processed meals contain large amounts of butter, white
flour, sugar, and unhealthy oils which the body can rapidly absorb.
problem is that the Diencephalon is not really equipped to handle
this influx of pure caloric intake. As a result, the brain can't
figure out what to do with all of the calories entering the body so
quickly, and it shifts over to fat storage rather than energy
burning. Eating processed foods is a lot like taking drugs both in
the way that the calories are delivered and the way that the body
responds to them.
become most dangerous when they are processed and refined to a point
where the body receives a maximum dose for minimal effort. For
example, the coca leaves and poppy plants do have chemical effects
upon the body, but they are not necessarily dangerous. After
purification and refinement, however, cocaine and heroin are
incredibly dangerous and can greatly shorten your lifespan or even
lead to immediate overdose and death.
the effects are not quite as stark, processed and refined foods can
also have a severely negative impact upon your health, your life, and
your weight. The sugar that you buy at the store is simply purely
refined, empty calories. You eat the sugar and you get a pleasure
response from the brain, but you get absolutely no benefit from sugar
outside of calorie consumption, which is the biggest contributing
factor to obesity. Processed grain is the same way. Processed grain
is just pure simple carbohydrates, simply sugar by a different name.
Unless the processed grain is fortified, you are getting nothing but
of Psychology in Obesity
although the first two causes of obesity can only really be treated
medically, and cannot be treated effectively through diet alone, that
still leaves the third, most common form of obesity, which is caused
by the choices that we make. But why do we make those choices? It
seems clear that if we eat too much and too unhealthy, then we will
suffer in the long run.
it in our brains that makes us overeat?
been a lot of research regarding the impact of psychology upon
obesity, and there has been even more philosophizing regarding the
connection between the mind and the stomach. One of the reasons why
obesity is so hard to tackle is because it involves our deepest
animal instincts. The Diencephalon is kind of like the lizard part of
the brain. It is vitally important for the normal function of the
human body, but it also controls our primal survival urges.
one of those survival urges, and the Diencephalon has the ability to
adapt the body to a variety of different levels and types of food
availability. The problem is that the level of abundance that we
experience today has not been the evolutionary norm, and our bodies
really have no way to cope with overeating from a pure genetic
why someone can feel guilt and embarrassment over their obesity, but
still not be able to overcome it. The pressure from the Diencephalon
overwhelms the thinking part of the brain, promoting the individual
to find satisfaction through the satiation of thirst and hunger.
There are countless reasons why this takes place. Some people simply
don't sustain the will power to prevent themselves from overeating,
some people suffer from depression or other psychological disorders
which make finding pleasure through other means more difficult.
psychological cues combine with physiological changes in the body,
making obesity even harder to overcome. The stomach gets accustomed
to being stretched, so it takes longer to send satiation signals. The
body diverts energy from food directly into fat, increasing hunger by
utilizing energy inefficiently. Obesity is a psychological and
physiological condition which can be incredibly difficult to treat,
because eating is so engrained in the we that we think as well as the
way that we feel.
to realize about obesity is that it is not necessarily the result of
Compulsive Eating, and the two disorders are completely unique to one
another, although there is some overlap. Compulsive Eating is a
desire to eat that is divorced from hunger, but the root cause of
obesity is an overwhelming hunger response which compels them to eat
and overeat. Individuals that are obese have strong desires for
things like pastries, sweets, and sodas because these foods and
drinks have the ability to provide large numbers of calories very
Thoughts on Obesity
a multifaceted problem, and it helps to understand the root causes of
obesity in order to more effectively tackle the problem. Whether you
are suffering from obesity yourself, or looking to help a loved one,
it is important to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy
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