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Exploring the root causes of obesity

13 Jun 2024

Living in a world where a condition like obesity affects millions of people, stopping at a calorie count isn’t enough. The complexities of obesity go beyond this. That’s what we’re going to discuss today. Join us as we explore obesity and obesity causes that affect so you can soon start a journey to free yourself from this condition. 

What is Obesity?

Obesity means having excess body fat. This comes from a long duration of imbalance in one’s calorie intake and expense. Besides the weight going beyond the Body Mass Index, factors like physiological, psychological, and social also play a role. Obesity also makes the body prone to health risks such as diabetes, heart disease and mental well-being.

What causes Obesity in adults?

There are multiple causes of Obesity in adults, like:

  • The diet – It matters how much calories you consume and what kind of foods you consume. Foods that are calorie-rich and unhealthy can lead to weight gain.
  • Your physical activity: If you live a lazy and sedentary life and aren’t involved in physical exercise, it could make your energy imbalance and weight gain worse.
  • Metabolic factors: Sometimes, having medical conditions like hypothyroidism or some hormonal imbalance can contribute to your obesity.

What are the genetic causes of obesity?

  • Family history: having a genetic predisposition can add to the probability of getting obese, especially if the family members suffer from the same. Additionally, inheriting certain traits from the family, such as a large appetite, can also make things difficult. 
  • Genetic syndromes: Sometimes, your appetite can get messed up due to genetic disorders like Prader-Willi syndrome. Such syndromes affect your metabolism and cause obesity.

What are the behavioural causes of obesity?

  • Your diet: Having unhealthy eating habits like eating when depressed or eating in large amounts can add to excess calorie intake. If the calories you take in from foods and drinks are more than you can burn, your weight may increase. Usually, your body burns calories when you perform activities such as digesting, breathing or blinking. Any calories that don’t get burned, get stored as fat in your body.

    However, obesity is more complicated than mere calories. It also matters what kind of food you consume. Making your diet rich fruits, veggies and whole grains helps a lot by keeping your body healthy. 

  • Your lifestyle: Having a routine where you spend most of your time lazing around or engaging in screens reduces energy expenditure and adds to your risk of obesity. That’s why involving in physical activity is important, and not just exercising but all kinds of physical activity. moving around. 

What are the medical causes of obesity?

Several major medical causes can lead to obesity. They are:

  • Hypothyroidism: This is when the thyroid gland present in your neck produces the thyroid hormone in very amounts. Thyroid is a hormone that regulates your hormones, having it in small amounts in the body can cause weight gain. 
  • Cushing’s syndrome: This syndrome occurs when your adrenal glands produce lots of cortisol. It leads to fat gain in the face, abdomen and upper body. 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: this is when your body makes too much of androgen which ultimately also causes period problems. This then leads to weight gain.
  • Ageing: you lose muscle as you grow old. This ultimately lowers your calorie-burning capacity and leads to weight gain. 
  • Menopause: Menopausal hormonal changes can also contribute to weight gain.
  • Certain inherited conditions and other diseases of the brain can also cause excess weight gain.
  • Some medications can lead to weight gain. In such cases, it’s best to consult a doctor.

What are the environmental causes of obesity? 

Although recognising environmental factors may be difficult, they can severely affect your health and worsen obesity. For instance, something as simple as living in an area with a high number of fast food joints compared to healthy ones can play a major factor in how much unhealthy food you consume. Let’s discuss broader environmental factors that could affect your weight.

  • Food environment: Having easy access to unhealthy food and less access to healthy food. The convenience of delivery apps also plays a role.
  • Advertising: With the advertising industry skyrocketing, the promotion of junk food can impact your diet. 
  • Built environment: Limited availability of spaces for physical activity, this could discourage exercising. 
  • Pricing: A lot of healthy food items are costly, due to which one might go for less affordable low-quality alternatives. 
  • Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions may discourage outdoor physical exercise. 

What are the socioeconomic factors of obesity?

Socioeconomic conditions like where you were born or where you study, and work also affect your health. These are the social determinants of your health. Let’s discuss them in detail.

  • Education: Being educated brings a good understanding and awareness of good health and choices and the importance of maintaining weight.
  • Income differences: People falling under the low-income group may have limited access to facilities like an affordable gym or good-quality food. The socioeconomic status you hold in society can also be stressful and affect your weight.
  • Social circle and family: Your social circle can also affect your health. You’re more likely to have obesity if your friends and family do as well. Social isolation could also affect your weight.
  • Access to healthcare: Some places have limited access to healthcare which prevents management of obesity and increases your risks.

Though obesity poses challenges influenced by multiple factors, there’s always hope for positive change. You can empower yourself with knowledge of the influencing factors and take proactive steps for prevention and management. 

Take up healthy habits, stay active, and address any health issues you may have. Let’s work on this story together, fueled by consistent efforts and better choices and aim for a healthier future so you can free yourself from the burden of obesity.

About the Author

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Devina Aswal
MBBS, DDM, FCR, CIC

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