Featured Obesity Article
Causes Of Obesity
Before we can address the causes of obesity, we have to understand what obesity really is. Obesity is simply "increased body weight due to excessive accumulation of fat." Humans and other mammals must have a natural energy reserve stored in the fatty tissue. We need a certain amount of fat as stored energy and for insulating the body. However, this condition can increase to the point where it becomes a health concern. Too much fat can lead to serious health problems.
But that quick and easy dictionary definition only goes part of the way to defining obesity and does very little to clarify the causes of obesity. For many years, plumpness and being well fed was an indication of the economic success of American culture. Choosing to be a bit overweight was, at one time, one of the causes of obesity! But now, as the health risks have been identified, being overweight is increasingly seen as unhealthy.
As the subject of obesity has been studied, medical professionals have identified a number of causes of obesity in addition to eating too much and exercising too little. As a place to start, even the National Institutes of Health state that "obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories from food than he or she burns." The institutes recognize that our bodies need calories to sustain life and be physically active. The trouble begins when there is an imbalance between how much we eat and how much energy we use.
However, beyond the now-obvious connection between food intake and energy use, the causes of obesity include:
- Genetic factors - Obesity runs in families.
- Lifestyle habits - Young people learn eating/exercise habits from their family members
- Environmental/Social Factors - Society's habits change: less exercise, more fast food etc.
- Medication - Some drugs, including some anti-depressants, can contribute to obesity.
Poverty and a lower level of education have also been identified as possible causes of obesity. According to the National Institutes of Health, "One reason for this maybe that high-calorie processed foods cost less and are easier to find and prepare than healthier foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. Other reasons may include inadequate access to safe recreation places or the cost of gym memberships, limiting opportunities for physical activity."
Recent research also points to a "toxic environment" as one of the causes of obesity. According to a professor of clinical pediatrics in California, food-manufacturing practices in recent years have created this toxic environment that dooms children to being overweight. He believes that high-calorie, low-fiber diets promote hormonal imbalances that encourage children to overeat.
The jury is still out when it comes to causes of obesity, though much progress has been made toward identifying the path we need to take for a healthy life.