Obesity in Adults: Implications for Health, Prevalence and Treatment

Topics: Child Obesity


More often than not, the topic of ones’ weight or dietary intake is usually a touchy subject. It is a biological fact that humans need to eat to survive but once you add in the social and psychological factors, you’ve got an increased chance of overeating. Although it is common knowledge that food is fuel for our bodies, food is commonly misused. According to WHO (2018): “More than one in eight adults in the world is obese. The problem is most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing an upward trend, the report shows”.

(p. 3) One in eight adults might not sound like that many people but if you put it into perspective that of 13% of the world’s population is about 672 million adults, it becomes more eye opening.

So why is this the way things are? There are six major factors involved in becoming overweight: the “Supersize It” syndrome aka overeating, highly palatable foods, the cafeteria diet effect, sedentary lifestyles, too little sleep, and individual differences and lifespan changes (Hockenbury, 2015, p.

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322-323). Granted there are many possible variables that play a part of people becoming overweight but in laymen’s terms: if you are consuming more calories than the amount of calories you are burning, your weight will increase.

Another way to refer to ones’ weight is their set-point. This is the body’s natural weight, varying from person to person, at which it actively defends from becoming higher or lower by regulating feelings of hunger and body metabolism (Hockenbury, 2015, p. 321). Combining a surplus of calories with a sedentary lifestyle is an easy way to add weight and increase your set-point which is common throughout the world. A small fluctuation of a few pounds above or below your typical set-point is normal but once the numbers start to become more extreme than usual, health risks occur.

There are other negative aspects that come with becoming overweight like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Inactivity usually accompanies obesity due to the vicious cycle of overeating and eating unhealthy foods which creates a reaction in the brain similar to that of someone addicted to drugs. Being overweight poses health problems of all kinds but one of the major risks are heart attacks. The more body fat a person has, the harder all systems of the body have to work on a daily basis.

Eating habits are an important factor when considering the topic of obesity as well. ‘Good’ eating habits, i.e. a diet consisting of mostly whole foods, is the most health-conscious way to maintain a lower set-point. Whole foods such as lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats (ex. avocados) are the most wholesome and nutritious ways to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Healthy eating habits are also imperative due to the fact that the human body protects more against weight loss than it does weight gain. This is the body’s biological instinct to protect you from going into starvation mode.

People tend to consume more when there is a variety of foods to choose from. The abundance of all-you-can-eat buffet’s has created what is called the cafeteria-diet effect (Epstein & others, 2010). Buffet’s make overeating entirely too easy with having at least 4 isles full of food trays to choose from. Portion size is easily overlooked at buffet’s making for an effortless way to eat enough food to make you feel sick. The cafeteria-diet effect has severely impacted obesity in the past two decades. It has also been speculated that because people do not have to expend energy to obtain every meal, as they did in the past, they are more likely to eat for pleasure and not only to avoid starvation. So along with variety, people tend to overeat when highly palatable food is available.

Lack of sleep has also proven to show disruptions to hunger-related hormones within the body’s metabolism. Sleep-deprived people usually prefer calorie-rich, “unhealthy” foods which aid in a higher risk of gaining weight along with an increased potential to become obese. Proper rest is critical in any healthy regimen because the body needs time to recover from its daily activities, similar to how you recharge your cellular device every night.

Genetics plays a fundamental role in obesity as well. Studies show that people who have a family history of obesity are more likely to become obese than someone with no prior family history. They also show that the closer you are related to someone who is obese, the higher your chance is to be obese. Being predisposed to obesity doesn’t necessarily mean you will become obese but if you do not make a conscious effort to combat it, you have a higher risk to succumb to the epidemic.

Using food for the wrong reasons can facilitate in the development of bad habits. A common way people misuse food is by using it as a reward. Although food can be a good incentive for a goal reached or an accomplishment made, repetitive use of this tactic can form bad habits. Once the brain gets used to the reward of unhealthy foods, it craves more. Overeating can lead to brain changes to reduce the brain’s rewards from junk foods. This leads to a vicious cycle. Once the brain becomes used to unhealthy foods, it continues to want more.

With this all being said, it isn’t uncommon for people to misconstrue the idea that if you’re eating “unhealthy” food, you will become overweight. There are two extremes that present themselves when it comes to eating: people usually eat too much and aren’t being health conscious or they are eating too little and become crazy obsessed with what they consume.

As you can tell, a healthy relationship with food is rather important. The way your body tells your brain it is hungry is by the hormones ghrelin and neuropeptide (Hockenbury, 2015, p. 320). Increased levels of these two hormones signal to the brain that your body is “hungry” and requires nourishment. The type of nourishment you chose is entirely up to you. The food pyramid was taught to us as a basic guideline suggesting that we needed numerous amounts of fruits and veggies, grains, dairy, meat proteins and fats (from biggest to smallest portions).

But being that it is the 21st century and both healthy and unhealthy food is always readily available just about wherever you go, it is easy to see that people are constantly surrounded by temptations and decisions. It is also important to note that even though it is advised by general physicians that people of all ages should strive to maintain a “healthy diet”, not everyone makes this a top priority in their life. Just as every human body is different from the next, so are the likes and dislikes of the person. As a child, a person may be fed plenty of fruits and vegetables but grow up to be a selective eater or they could still have their love for vegetables; a child could grow up eating predominantly cereal and white bread but eventually find a love for fresh vegetables and a raw food diet.

Social media has made a major impact in the past two decades. People tend to only share things to make their lives and themselves look the prettiest/most handsome, the strongest, the most carefree, the most popular, the richest and the happiest version of themselves leaving people on the outside looking in to be tricked into being impressed and even jealous. Social media also has a huge capacity for pictures of food in itself, which can stir up the appetites of its viewers and compel an indulgence of food even in the lack of hunger.

We live in an environment that promotes obesity with the plethora of fast food restaurants, which make it relatively easy and affordable to eat on the go. Home-cooked meals are less likely to happen which means there is an influx in distracted eating, which also adds to weight gain.


Obesity is an epidemic. It is a worldwide problem but it can be prevented. Although it can be chronic, lasting years or be life-long, it can be self-treated. Combating this disease starts with the person it is effecting. A person may self diagnose themselves as obese, but unless they chose to do something to cure it, it will persist to be a medical issue in their life. Excess fat under the skin and surrounding the organs significantly increases the risk for numerous health problems.

There are many factors that come in to play when it comes to obesity, but whether a person is predisposition to becoming obese or not, there are plenty of ways to prevent it. It isn’t easy, by any means and it is ultimately a personal choice to make an effort to fuel your body in a “healthier” way.

Will power is imperative when combating obesity due to the obesogenic environment we live in. The world today promotes obesity with its copious amounts of fast-food restaurants, available take out, bounteous types of technology creating distracted eating and social media where pictures of tasty food are posted every minute of the day creating a desire to eat regardless if you are hungry or not.

There are many actions one can take to counteract obesity but it all starts with the will to lead a healthy lifestyle. Making choices like shopping for more whole foods rather than processed foods, cooking more meals at home so you know all the ingredients and making an effort to create a healthful relationship with food are all steps towards averting the epidemic of obesity.


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Obesity in Adults: Implications for Health, Prevalence and Treatment. (2021, Dec 03). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/obesity-in-adults-implications-for-health-prevalence-and-treatment/

Obesity in Adults: Implications for Health, Prevalence and Treatment
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