It is prevalent in our society, especially nowadays, that there are more and more people who become overweight and unhealthy, factors that may contribute to such is due to a person’s cost of living, lifestyle, personality, and attitude towards his or her food intake and everyday activities. This paper will discuss not only the above mentioned factors as a cause for obesity but it will explain the biological and medical cause of it.
First, one can only draw conclusions unto what is the cause of obesity if he/she knows the exact definition of this. According to Myers (1), obesity is a state wherein there is excess body fat that has been accumulated and poses serious threat to the person’s health. This arises from too much energy intake and less metabolic rate and exercise. This could only mean that one of the factors that could lead to obesity is the person’s lifestyle. If the person has more calorie intake and less physical activity, he/she may lead to obesity. Aside from lack of exercise or physical activity, the person’s diet is also another factor. The reason why the input of calories is more rather than your physical activity is because of the food that you are eating. As probably already established, “there is a relative contribution of excess energy intake versus reduced energy expenditure to the obesity epidemic in the United States and in other countries has been the subject of much study and debate” (Caballero 2). Data shows that the US population has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world and it’s leaning cause is improper dietary intake. A large portion of this may be contributed by the increase in consumption of fast food and sweetened beverages (which accounts for almost 25 percent of daily calories in young adults). While other factors that could be causes of such are the following: low cost of energy-dense foods, increased consumption of prepared meals, and ample opportunities to eat throughout the day.
Obesity can be a result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factor like many other diseases known to man. Obesity is found to be a major feature in rare genetic conditions like: Prader-Willi syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, MOMO syndrome, leptin receptor mutationss, congenital leptin deficiency, and melanocortin receptor mutations. A study was found indicating that 80% of the offspring of two obese parents were obese, would result in the same condition in contrast to less than 10% of the offspring of two parents who were of normal weight (Farooqi and O’Rahilly 710).
On the other hand, obesity can be attributed to genetics but this still depends on the population that is examined. (Chakravarthy and Booth 4) The thrifty gene hypothesis states that certain ethnic groups may be more prone to obesity in an equivalent environment. Their ability to take advantage of rare periods of abundance by storing energy as fat would be advantageous during times of varying food availability, and individuals with greater adipose reserves would be more likely survive famine. This tendency to store fat, however, would be maladaptive in societies with stable food supplies. This is the presumed reason that Pima Indians, who evolved in a desert ecosystem, developed some of the highest rates of obesity when exposed to a Western lifestyle.
Related to this, Some physical and mental illnesses that are used to treat them and also some pharmaceutical substances can increase the risk of obesity. Some of the medical illnesses that can increase obesity risk are rare genetic syndromes and congenital or acquired conditions. Some of these are: hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, growth hormone deficiency and the eating disorders- binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome. Though these illnesses occur under obesity, obesity is still not considered as a psychiatric disorder. There are also some instances wherein medications may cause weight gain or changes in body composition. These medications include: insulin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, steroids, sulfonylureas, certain anticonvulsants (phenytoin and valproate), pizotifen, and some forms of hormonal contraception (Kolata 10).
Lastly, while genetic influences are important in understanding obesity, they cannot explain the current dramatic increase seen within specific countries. Though it was already established that there are medical, psychological, and physical reasons for being obese, there are studies that show that there is a correlation between social class and Body Mass Index. There was a study found in 1989 that women under the high social class in the developed countries are less likely to be obese and in the developing countries, women, men and children from high social classes have higher rates of obesity. In the year 2007, an update of these study was made and found same relationships but weaker. It was said that the effects of globalization was the reason why there is a decrease in the strength of correlation. There are some explanations made regarding the association of BMI and social class. It was said that people in the developed countries can afford more nutritious food and are experiencing a very high social pressure to remain slim. They also have more opportunities to do physical fitness. While in the developing countries, obesity patterns contribute to the high cost of living, high energy expenditure with physical labor and some cultural values. It was also said that a person’s thought about body mass may also play a role in obesity. A correlation in BMI that changes over time was also found between friends, siblings and spouses (Sobal and Stunkard 270).