A whopping 1.9 billion overweight adults including 600 million obese individuals – that is the world data for 2014! And all of them are living with a magnified health risk.
Before learning how to deal with it, let us understand what is Obesity?
Overweight and Obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. In scientific terms, Obesity is accumulation of excess Adipose tissue which leads to increased levels of circulating fatty acids and inflammation (measured in terms of BMI – Body Mass Index) The WHO definition is:
A BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
A BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity
(BMI is a simple index of weight for height in adults)
That Obesity is harmful for health is a well-known fact but it is important to know the causes behind obesity to help prevent and relieve one from its ill effects. The main causes of Obesity are as follows:
1. Imbalanced Food Intake
A person becomes obese gradually over a period of time, through wrong food habits like:
a. Eating large amounts of processed or fast food and outside food that is high in fat and sugar
b. Eating large amounts of meals at a time with long intervals in between
c. Alcohol Intake – Alcohol contains a large amount of calories, and continuous excess intake leads to obesity
d. Eating more than the body requires also results in fat accumulation
e. Comfort eating when one is depressed
Imbalanced food intake messes up with the natural digestive and metabolic processes leading to excess fat deposits in the body.
2. Lack of Physical Activity
Obesity results from imbalance between the energy intake from food and drinks and the amount of energy spent on metabolism and physical activities. Lack of physical activity results in burning less or no calories and hence contributes to obesity. Sedentary nature of work, increased urbanization combined with lack of exercise and infrastructure (parks, playgrounds, walking areas, etc.) is contributing to the increase in Obesity.
3. Genes and Family History
Some rare genetic conditions can lead to being overweight and obese, but in general acquired habits like eating patterns, type of food consumed, etc. leads to obesity. Genetic reasons may also hamper the pace of losing weight but one can definitely lose weight with little extra hard work.
4. Health conditions and Medications
Several illnesses like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), Cushing’s syndrome, PCOS, etc. leads to obesity. Certain medications like steroids, antidepressants, medicines for epilepsy and diabetes also leads to excess body weight.
5. Emotional Factors
Some people tend to eat more when they are sad, angry, depressed or stressed. Moreover, people eat sugary, calorie rich foods to combat depression and mood swings. Sugar causes opiate and dopamine activity in the reward centres of the brain, which gives one the impression of “pleasure” and hence increased craving for sugar-rich foods. Over time they tend to gain weight and become obese if ignored.
6. Lifestyle related problems
A number of lifestyle issues leads to obesity – the top of them being “Lack of Sleep”. Research suggests that lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity.
People who sleep fewer hours also tend to eat calories and fat rich food leading to weight gain and obesity. Sleep maintains hormonal levels that make one feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When one doesn’t get enough sleep, level of ghrelin goes up and leptin goes down, resulting in excess hunger.
Weight gain is also common when one leaves smoking. First, food tends to smell and taste better when one leaves smoking leading to increased intake of food. Second, nicotine raises the calorie burning rate of the body. Hence, fewer calories are burnt when one leaves smoking.
These are some of the reasons behind Obesity. Not to mention that Obesity leads to further illnesses and increased health risks. Hence it is very important to understand these risks and keep them in check.
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You can also understand Obesity through the video below: