OBESTIY: The Root Cause

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Obesity is a rising epidemic specifically here in America, and also across the world. As per the World Health Organization Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that puts a person at risk for a number of life threaten diseases and conditions. The BMI (body mass index) score is commonly used to determine overall weight status. A BMI of >25 is considered overweight, and a BMI of >30 is considered obese. According to the World Health Organization, more than 4 million people worldwide die due to obesity related or driven conditions each year. Being overweight or obese puts an individual at risk for a number of chronic health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

In a recent journal review titled “The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture”, authors pointed out that the rising obesity epidemic became increasingly prevalent first in America and Europe as there is very little restriction on access to or availability of food. [1] The researchers go on to investigate the contributive factors leading to obesity, and ultimately chronic disease. The author looks at the socio-economic, explaining that “obesity arises as the result of an energy imbalance between calories consumed and the calories expended”. This assumes all calories are equal, and nutrient-density is of low importance. But, recent research on the topic of obesity dives deeper into the hormonal aspects and physiology of obesity.

In the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” authors explained that it is a hormone known as leptin that is heavily involved in the regulatory process of obesity. The researcher’s definition of human obesity is “increased plasma leptin levels”. [2] Leptin is a hormone produced by adipose tissues that sends a signal to your body telling it to stop eating. The researchers go onto discuss the multiple nutritional factors that can lead to disruption in leptin production. As we get deeper into the research, we begin to understand that obesity is a lot more complicated than the simple formula of calories in versus calories out. Nutrients become increasingly important when it comes to hormonal regulation in the body. And, in order for us a professionals to reduce the negative impact of this epidemic, we have to look at nutrients and overall quality of the foods that we eat.

As it becomes more apparent that obesity is a multi-faceted issue, it’s important that we understand all contributing factors. In the journal “Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research” authors discuss the various lifestyle factors that can contribute to metabolic dysfunction and obesity in adolescents. The authors specifically looked at the relationship between sleep quality and duration, and its effects on hormonal dysfunction. The researchers explained that in adolescents, decreased sleep quality and duration leads to metabolic dysfunction. Various lifestyle factors including increased screen time, and early start time to school contribute to the disruption in sleep and ultimately obesity later in life.

We would all love a straight and concise answer to the what causes obesity, and the ensuing metabolic mayhem that follows. But, the fact of the matter is that there are multiple factors at play, that contribute to someone becoming obese. Some are genetics, and many are lifestyle related. The important thing is too not simply focus on one thing, or pill, or one exercise in an effort to reduce your risk. We need to look at each component of our lives, and determine whether those inputs are promoting optimal health, or promoting less than optimal health.

Thanks for reading and sharing – Stay healthy!

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