Obesity: Cause and effect – a detailed knowhow
It’s no secret that people world over including children are struggling with OBESITY today. This issue has become so rampant that the moment you turn on the TV, or flip through the magazines or newspapers; you will find obesity-related information and advice.
Though many people follow the age-old proverb “Eat Less and Move More” to maintain their weight, it doesn’t address many factors that cause obesity. If you are worried about your own weight or of your loved ones, addressing the root causes of obesity will help everyone lead a healthy and happy life.
We have listed below the reasons causing obesity, what complications it can lead to if not addressed on time and how it can be prevented.
Before we get into the details of what causes obesity, let us first understand what is Obesity?
Obesity is a chronic condition involving an excess amount of body fat. It indicates that the person’s body weight is higher than what is healthy.
A person is obese when his Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or higher. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.
The following table will easily help you identify the type of obesity you or your loved ones are suffering from.
What causes Obesity?
A person’s body weight is determined by the perfect balance between calorie intake and energy expenditure.
The food that we consume is measured in calories. To maintain a healthy weight, an average physically active man needs about 2500 calories while a physically active lady needs about 2000 calories. Though these calories may sound too high, it is very easy to achieve this in a single meal if your meal consists of foods rich in fat and sugar like a burger, dessert.
Although genetic, hormonal and behavioral factors influence your body weight, Obesity occurs when you consume more calories than you burn through exercise and other activities. Your body then stores the excess calories consumed as fat.
Obesity is also caused due to certain medical conditions like Prader-Willi syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome, but they are very rare. The primary causes of obesity are
- Unhealthy diet and eating habits – We all know that people don’t gain weight in a day. It develops over a period of time due to poor eating habits and unhealthy lifestyle practices such as
- Eating a large amount of processed, fast or outside food – Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and preservatives.
- Drinking too much alcohol and beverages– A person can easily gain weight by consuming alcohol and sugary beverages regularly as they contain a lot of calories.
- Eating large portions than required – If your friends or family consume large portions, you too may be encouraged to eat more.
- Comfort eating – If you feel low or depressed, you may eat food to feel better.
- Inactivity – Another common problem is that; most people who are not physically active end up storing excess calories consumed as fat in their body. Leading a sedentary lifestyle makes you gain weight which may eventually lead to various other illnesses.
Other Risk factors causing obesity
Genetics – Many people claim that they are unable to lose weight because of genetic reasons like “it runs in my family” or “due to traits inherited from parents like having a large appetite. These may hamper weight loss efforts. But there is no reason why people can’t lose weight. In many cases, obesity is caused due to poor eating habits practiced since childhood.
Family lifestyle – Generally it is believed that “If one or both parents are obese, you run the risk of becoming obese”. This is not because of genetics but due to poor lifestyle practices like unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity taken up by the family members
Medications – Certain medications like antidepressants, diabetes medications, steroids can cause weight gain if not taken care by having a proper diet and engaging in physical activity.
Pregnancy – Most women tend to gain weight during pregnancy. They find it difficult to lose weight after the baby is born, in spite of breastfeeding and many continue to gain weight. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women. Why does this happen? It could be due to the following reasons:
- Some women may develop low thyroid function before and after pregnancy which may result in weight gain.
- Women who slept less than five hours daily found it difficult to lose weight
- New moms who were stressed continued to gain weight.
Social and Economic issues – are also linked to obesity. Not knowing how to cook healthy or not having enough money to buy good food can result in obesity.
Not drinking enough water – We often mistake our thirst to be hunger and end up eating food rather than drinking water.
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables – By not including fruits and salads in your diet, you may feel hungry quickly. Salads provide good nutrition as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They keep you full for a long time.
Lack of sleep and stress – Not sleeping enough or sleeping for long can cause hormonal changes that increase your appetite. You may later crave for foods high in calories and carbohydrates that cause weight gain.
Age – Obesity can occur at any age, including young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and less active lifestyle increases the risk of obesity. In addition, the muscles mass tends to decrease with age which lowers the metabolism. These changes reduce your calorie requirements and can make it difficult to shed off the excess weight. If you don’t control what you eat and are not physically active, you are likely to gain weight.
Quitting smoking – For some; quitting smoking may result in weight gain and lead to obesity. However, in the long run, it will definitely benefit your health than continue smoking.
Even if you are obese or are suffering from any of the risk factors mentioned above, it is not necessary that you will be obese for life. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH IN YOUR HANDS. You can definitely reverse all diseases through diet, physical activity, and behavioral changes.
Effects of Obesity
Obesity can lead to a lot of serious health issues including
- Type 2 diabetes – If you are overweight or obese, you are at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes particularly if you have excess weight around your tummy.
Having excess abdominal fat is called abdominal obesity, which is a high-risk form of obesity. Studies suggest that abdominal fat causes fat cells to release chemicals promoting inflammation. This can make the body less sensitive to the insulin it produces by disrupting the function of insulin-producing cells and their ability to produce insulin. This is known as insulin resistance which is also called Type 2 diabetes
Obesity and Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by following a healthy diet and a regular exercise schedule. The good news is that reducing a small amount of weight can help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiac illness, heart disease, and cancer.
- Thyroid – Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in front of the neck which produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism. Thyroid disorders can either slow down or speed up metabolism.
When hormone levels become high or low, you may experience symptoms like weight gain or weight loss. Weight gain happens when your thyroid hormones are low. This condition is referred to as hypothyroidism. In contrast, when the body produces more hormones, you may experience weight loss and this condition is referred to as hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is more common than Hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of thyroid gland issues:
Thyroid hormones affect many organs of the body like
- Swelling in the neck – Usually, the neck is enlarged when you have a thyroid issue.
- Change in heart rate – People with hypothyroidism experience lower heartbeat and hyperthyroidism people experience faster heartbeat. It may also increase their blood pressure levels
- Mood swings – Thyroid disorders can impact energy levels and mood. Hypothyroidism makes people feel tired and depressed while hyperthyroidism causes restlessness, anxiety, sleeping issues, and irritability.
- Hair loss – is another sign of thyroid imbalance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair fall but the hair grows back once the condition is reversed.
- Body temperatures – Thyroid imbalances affect the regulation of body temperature. Hypothyroidism people may feel cold very fast while hyperthyroidism people may experience excessive sweating.
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Vision problems
- Muscle weakness or trembling hands.
How can thyroid issue be treated?
A simple blood test will help in identifying thyroid disorder. This test measures the thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH), that regulates the work of the thyroid gland. If TSH is high, then it is hypothyroidism, if TSH is low then it is hyperthyroidism.
In some cases, hypothyroidism is also caused when there is a problem with the pituitary gland situated at the base of the brain. This gland produces TSH. If it does not produce enough TSH, levels of thyroid hormones will fall causing hypothyroidism.
If you or your loved ones feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, do consult your doctor at the earliest. Hypothyroidism is more common in women especially above the age of 60 years
- Hypertension and High blood pressure – High blood pressure, also called hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and heart failure. As your body weight increases, your blood pressure can rise. In fact, being overweight makes you more susceptible to high blood pressure than when you maintain a healthy weight.
A blood pressure of 130/80 is considered high, whereas pressure between 120 and 129 and less than 80 is considered elevated. This means that you do not suffer from hypertension currently but may develop it in the future if you don’t change your lifestyle to keep your pressure under control.
You can prevent high blood pressure by
- Maintaining a healthy weight, or reduce weight if you are overweight.
- By reducing salt in the food
- By increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Consuming less alcohol
These lifestyle changes are recommended for treating high blood pressure along with necessary medication.
- High Cholesterol – Overweight people are more likely to have high cholesterol than thin people. A person with any body type can have high cholesterol. You have to watch what you eat to stay fit and healthy.
Both men and women tend to see higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels as they get older. Weight gain also contributes to higher levels. Being overweight tends to increase the triglycerides, bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol. Some may get it due to heredity.
Hence it is said that eating a healthy diet and regular physical activity plays a very important role in maintaining good cardiovascular health.
- Stroke – Just as cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, being overweight greatly increases the chance of having a stroke. Inflammation occurs because of excess fat in the body which causes poor blood flow and blockages.
More and more people are dying of stroke every year. Considering the severity of the illness, let us understand what are the other risk factors that cause stroke and how to prevent them.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when the heart works harder to pump blood throughout our body. Obesity is one of the factors causing hypertension.
- Sleep Apnea – occurs when you experience pauses in your breathing while sleeping. This disturbs your sleep and it is mostly experienced by people suffering from high blood pressure.
- Diabetes – has a major correlation with stroke because the glucose in the body does not combine properly with the insulin produced leading to less efficient energy distribution between the cells. Eventually, this condition will form deposits and clots which can lead to cutting the supply of oxygen to the brain. Those with diabetes are more likely to suffer from a stroke than those without it.
The best way to prevent stroke is by making lifestyle changes comprising of eating a healthy diet along with exercise.
- Cancer – Several studies conducted have advised that being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing cancer. The possible reasons why obesity is linked to cancer may include:
- Increased levels of insulin and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which may help some cancers develop
- Chronic, low-level inflammation, which is more common in people who are obese; is linked with an increased cancer risk
- Higher amounts of estrogen produced by fat tissue, which can drive the development of some cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancers
- Fat cells may affect processes that regulate cancer cell growth.
If you are currently overweight or obese, it is best to start by taking steps to lose weight through nutrition and exercise
- Gynecological problems, such as infertility and irregular periods – Rising obesity rates around the world have had a significant impact on female reproductive health. Childhood obesity is associated with early onset of puberty, menstrual irregularities during adolescence and polycystic ovary syndrome. Women of reproductive age with high BMIs have a higher risk of ovulatory problems and tend to respond poorly to fertility treatment.
When you are obese, your quality of life deteriorates badly. You may feel low and depressed, unable to do any activities. You may avoid meeting people and going to public places. You may face challenges like low motivation levels, lack of ability to do work, sexual problems, shame and guilt, and low confidence levels.
How can you prevent obesity?
Whether you are currently overweight and run the risk of becoming obese, the following steps will help keep your weight in control and manage it effectively.
Follow a healthy eating plan – Focus on low calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid foods high in saturated fats and limit your intake of sweets, beverages, and alcohol. Eat three meals a day with limited snacks between your meals. Have a cheat day, only ONCE a month when you can enjoy your favorite foods. Choose your food wisely that will help promote good health and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise regularly – It is advised that exercising for 30 minutes to an hour in a day prevents weight gain. You can take up any form of activity like walking, running, swimming, cycling on a daily basis.
Maintain food journals – Try maintaining a journal to log in information related to the kind of food you eat, the quantity you eat and the time you eat and how you are feeling when you eat. This will help you keep track of your calorie intake and identify situations that trigger unwanted eating. Through these journals, you may see some patterns emerge that will help you correct your unhealthy eating practice.
Be consistent and determined – Consistency and determination are very essential to lose weight. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly will help you manage your weight better. Monitoring your weight on a weekly basis is useful as it will help you understand whether your efforts are yielding positive results. If not, it will help you identify the problem areas and take corrective actions.
Obesity is a complex issue but it is definitely not insurmountable. If you are struggling with obesity, making simple lifestyle changes would help. Try making healthy recipes and healthy snacks. If you find boring to exercise alone, look for a walking buddy or gym buddy that will help you have a good time while exercising.
If you’re concerned for your family member or your loved one; do set an example by leading a healthy life by preparing healthy meals and staying active. Take necessary steps to include your loved ones in healthy activities; without judging them or making them feel embarrassed. If you are not sure how to talk to your loved one about their weight without offending him, seek help from a professional.
If you are wanting to lose weight and are unable to do so, do read our article “Top reasons why you are struggling to lose weight” to identify the issues and rectify them.
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