What are Obesity Causes? Food Addiction. Obesity Factors. Overeating

Obesity in America. Obesity causes.

In my hub “Obesity. A global problem?” I asked a rhetoric question.
The conclusion was an obvious yes. A large body of work both from scientific studies and popular science seem to point to a global increase in obesity and a growing number of health related issues that often coincide with obesity.
A very interesting question to ask is where is this rise in obesity coming from. What are the causes?
This is a topic with ongoing research. The stakes are high. At one side there are the negative health issues that touch a growing number of people, both adults and children. On the other side, there is a powerful food business that doesn’t always have peoples best interest in mind.
Although it is agreed that the occurrence of obesity has been steadily rising steadily over the last 30 years, there is no one accepted explanation of the cause of obesity.

Weight gain is quite probably caused by a long-lasting, often subtle (small daily) imbalance in the energy balance. The energy balance is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, biological, psychosocial and environmental factors.

Food Addiction. Obesity Factors. Overeating

Woman Eating Croissant
Woman Eating Croissant | Source

Overeating

As far as energy balance is concerned I know I’ll be stating the obvious. The cause of obesity is
overeating.

But isn't it strange. Just because more food is available doesn’t necessarily need, mean that we should eat more. Or does it?

So, what drives this overconsumption?
There are many factors that can drive eating.

I’ll be touching on a few of them.

Causes Of Obesity

What do you think is the most important cause of obesity?

  • Genes
  • Overeating
  • Food addiction
  • Medicines
  • Fast food
  • Stress
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Food additives
  • Gut Bacteria
  • Other
See results without voting

Causes Of Obesity

Food Addiction. Obesity Factors. Overeating
Food Addiction. Obesity Factors. Overeating | Source

Other Possible Obesity Causes

This hub hasn't dealt with all the possible causes. There are probably many more.

For instance:

  • Smoking
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • School meals
  • Anger or Boredom
  • Hormones
  • Gut Bacteria (e.g. Methanobrevibacter and Enterobacter)
  • etcetera

There are several hubs related to the causes of this topic.

To name just a couple:

Genes and Family History

There is a body of evidence that obesity has a (tiny) genetic component. Twin studies have shown a high correlation rate for obesity in identical twins, even if they are not brought up in a shared environment. The FTO (Fat mass and obesity-associated protein) variant on chromosome 16 is what is usually implicated.

Influence of the genetic makeup seems to be present at, the distribution and formation of body fat, the activity of the minimum resting metabolic rate, food preferences, the level of physical activity, changes in energy use in response to overeating or dieting, and regulation of hunger and satiety. By the interplay between lifestyle, genetic factors, and environmental factors, several researchers point to the fact that it can be difficult to stay slim.

Although the evidence supports genetic factors as the causes of obesity, some researchers maintain that the cause is still to be fully understood.

Medicines That Cause Weight Gain

Medicines

There are certain medicines that may cause you to gain weight. Drugs can also have a downside: the side effects. These medicines include some prednisone-like agents, antidepressants, and seizure medicines.

The medicine reaches everywhere in the body and can cause unintended consequences.
These medicines can affect the body's metabolism, increase your appetite, slow down the rate at which your body burns calories, or even cause your body to hold on to excess water. All of these diverse circumstances can influence your weight and lead to weight gain.

Fast food, Fat profits: Obesity in America

Fast Food and Obesity

Source

Fast Food

Fast food is calorie dense. Fast food is perceived as a snack. Children love fast food, calorie dense with fat and sugars.

This topic is discussed in a hub by Silver Q "The Beginning of Obesity - When Did the Problem Start?".

Fellow hubber Mighty Mom touches on this subject in her hub "Obesity Epidemic in America: Who Is to Blame?"


Where it seems to come down to is that fast food and other snacks like candy bars are addictive. This comes from a special combination of fat, sugar and salt.

This combination is very pleasurable for people so that they often continue to eat despite the fact that they are already full.


Stress

There isn't a precise definition of stress in humans. But in any event, stress in the human body is a response to external stimuli. This tension raises followed by several physiological responses.

When you are faced with stress, you respond by fleeing or fighting or by stiffening.

Your heart pumps faster and more powerful and more free fatty acids are released in your blood.

Stiffening of terror can lead to more lipogenesis. This is the synthesis of fat from carbohydrates. Lipogenesis can lead to visceral obesity.
This can lead to an accumulation of fat around the stomach and intestines. This form of obesity with excess abdominal fat is popularly known as ' beer belly ' mentioned, though some patients with "beer bellies" never drink beer.

Stress and increased cortisol production
Cortisol is produced in your adrenal glands. The production of this steroid hormone occurs when you wake up, digests food or are doing exercise. Cortisol is an important hormone which plays a role in the glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, the release of insulin in inflammatory responses.

Psychosocial stressors lead to higher cortisol levels in your blood. A short-term elevated cortisol value has a positive effect, but a long-term elevated cortisol value has a negative impact on your health.

Studies in humans and animals have shown a correlation between elevated cortisol levels, a feeling of hunger, a craving for foods high in carbohydrates and / or fat, and weight gain. Furthermore, it is known that cortisol can cause adipocytes to grow into mature fat cells. But the biggest negative impact of cortisol that can move fat deposits deep in the abdomen (the infamous belly fat).

Obesity A World Wide Challenge

Additives hormones, preservatives and dangerous chemicals

There is an increasing number of people that are concerned that the genetic modification of our food supply coupled with the addition of hormones, preservatives and dangerous chemicals in the products we eat could be an important cause of obesity.

The GMO (genetically modified organism) producers have manipulated the food supply that healthy food is all but impossible to either find or consume. Several countries around the world have banned GMO products, by-products, pesticides and seeds for a reason.

Sedentary Lifestyle and Obesity

An Inactive Lifestyle

Our way of living is constantly changing. Many lifestyle changes keep us from getting as much exercise as we used to get. We' are getting fatter because we are living the sedentary life.
Schools have been trimming physical education.
Labor-saving tools also have lessened the energy we expend at home cooking meals or doing work in and around the house.
And then there's the Television, computers and an abundance of hand held devices that train our thumb and index finger, at best.
It is common knowledge that a bit of exercise is good for the heart and blood vessels, but it does more for health. By moving people get a better ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol levels: elevated LDL cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). By moving enough good cholesterol (HDL) increases. That's good for the blood vessels.

The more one moves, the easier the weight remains stable.

The Science of Addictive Food

Food Addiction

The fact of the matter is we find high sugar, high fat palatable foods like chocolate more appealing, more rewarding and more pleasurable to eat. Compared to bland foods like grains and green vegetables, we experience chocolate, for example, as more rewarding, so much so that we will eat it even when we're not hungry.

This compulsion shows analogy to the drugtaker's compulsion to take a drug. But it could be possible that our natural evolved preference for energy dense foods could have turned into something more dangerous? Could we become addicted to these foods? Addiction meaning uncontrolled eating, eating that's not associated with the pleasant sensations of fullness, satiation, but associated with unpleasant sensations, like regret, or shame, or even physical discomfort.

The Yale food addiction scale (you can find it here http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/addiction/FoodAddictionScale09.pdf) has been proposed to be a valid means of determining whether someone is addicted to food.
The scale is a questionnaire that asks the responder to think about their eating behavior in the last year, with particular reference to palatable high sugar or high fat foods like chocolate or fried food. They're asked whether they frequently overeat even when they're not hungry, whether they worry about eating certain foods or worry about trying not to eat them.
Whether overeating or the fear of overeating has resulted in them missing work or social activities, that sort of thing.
By indicating how often they have these experiences or feelings, a score is generated which is used as a diagnosis for food addiction.

And use of the Yale Scale is starting to become rather widespread.
And it's been suggested that patients defined as food addicted using the scale are more susceptible to food cravings and to binge eating.
Furthermore, these patients are suggested to be more impulsive and more emotional and reactive.
And they may also show a greater tendency to eat during periods of stress.

The Causes Of Obesity

It is clear that there is no one determining factor causing obesity.
There are several reasons which often in combination with each other lead to obesity.

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5 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Help us out here, what is the difference between "obesity and overweight"? One seems healthy and the other a problem.


vandynegl profile image

vandynegl 2 years ago from Ohio Valley

Well written!

You mentioned food addiction and I feel this goes hand in hand with the additives that are found in foods. Often, sugar, MSG, and preservatives can cause us to overeat foods. Many cookies, crackers, and other high flavored packaged foods will do this. It sends signals to the brain that we are not filled up, although we've already consumed too much.

As for Erickdierker: I have yet to find where overweight is "healthy." Although body fat serves a purpose, being overweight is more body fat than our body can use.


raymondphilippe profile image

raymondphilippe 2 years ago from The Netherlands Author

Thanks for the thumbs up. Appreciated. I wouldn't be surprised if you were right about the additives.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

We are one fat country. Eating has become recreation, an emotional bandaid, and so much more.


raymondphilippe profile image

raymondphilippe 2 years ago from The Netherlands Author

Unfortunately. Yes.

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