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What Are The Reasons For Obesity?

March 08, 2022 | Dr.Amna Zubair

Obesity is a very common problem in the United States and worldwide. It does not only affect the physical appearance of a person but also has multiple physiological and psychological effects. As the world is progressing, the intake rate of fast food is getting higher, and that of physical activity is getting lower. Both of these contribute to the surge of obesity in recent decades. 

However, it is necessary to understand that obesity is not only about high-calorie counts. It is a complex condition, and multiple factors are involved, some of which you can control and a few others that you can’t. Many people suffer from the socio-psychological effects of obesity, and it has become a leading cause of depression among individuals. For this reason, we will discuss multiple reasons that may cause obesity and whether you should be concerned about it.

What Are The Causes of Obesity?

It is generally assumed that eating food rich in calories is the cause of obesity. While it is true, it is important to understand that more than one factor is involved in causing obesity. Some of the causes of obesity include the following:

  • Eating more than you burn: Obesity is caused when excess fat is deposited in your body. Food high in calories or complex carbohydrates contains a lot of energy stored as fats. Failure to utilize these energy deposits can lead to an increased accumulation of fat. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor. People with a sedentary lifestyle burn lesser calories than those with an active routine. 
  • Genetics: The storage and processing of fat deposits can be influenced by genetic factors. This is the reason why some people develop obesity more quickly than others.
  • Pregnancy: Females often suffer from obesity during or after pregnancy. This is often linked to increased demand for food due to the active development of the baby in your womb.
  • Sleep irregularities: Insomnia or other sleep disturbances can trigger the release of a digestive hormone which increases the urge to eat high-calorie foods. 
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, eating disorders, etc., can also lead to increased fat deposition. Obesity due to these reasons may occur irrespective of dietary factors. 
  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in the level of hormones during puberty, menses, pregnancy or other factors can also affect your dietary intake and fat deposition. 
  • Psychological factors: Depression, loneliness, impulsiveness, lack of self-control, etc., can influence your appetite and weight. Social status can also have a psychological effect. 

Who Is At High Risk?

Risk factors of obesity are linked with its causes. A major risk factor for obesity is family history. A familial tendency to eat more can also influence your dietary intake. It is often noticed among joint family systems that people tend to eat more even if they eat moderately independently. 

The risk of obesity may also increase with age. This can occur due to lesser activity, irregular diet, medical conditions, or the use of medications. 
Smoking is another risk factor. The exact link between smoking and obesity hasn’t been understood, but research indicates that smokers are at a higher risk than non-smokers. 

Psychological factors play a significant role in this condition. For example, people who are depressed may eat more food than they usually would. Your mental health influences your dietary intake, physical activity, hormones, and sleep patterns. Disturbances or irregularity in one or all of those can increase the risk of obesity. 

When to See a Doctor?

The subjective perception of obesity may vary among different individuals. Some people may consider themselves fat even if they’re healthy; meanwhile, others may consider themselves healthy even if they’re overweight. To ease this issue, obesity is diagnosed based on your body mass index (BMI). Increased BMI over the recommended range according to your age, height and gender will be diagnosed as obesity. 

If your BMI is beyond the recommended range or you experience physical or psychological side effects, it is better to consult a healthcare specialist for this condition. Often people tend to ignore or avoid going to a doctor to discuss this issue. Understand that obesity is a common concern, and multiple ways can manage it. It is always beneficial to get an annual checkup of your weight and other necessary health measures to ensure that you do not have any medical condition. 

Your doctor will inquire about your family history, medical history, and questions related to your dietary intake and physical activity. They may also request specific lab tests such as complete blood count (CBC blood test), thyroid function tests (TFTs), liver function tests (LFTs), diabetes screening, etc. if an underlying disease is suspected. Your doctor will also guide you on managing this condition by changes in diet and lifestyle modifications. As mentioned before, obesity can be treated and controlled by willpower, counseling, and medical help.

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