Obesity has become endemic in the United States and lately in other wealthy western countries too. In fact, in a summer of the ABNF Journal, researchers Charles Menifield, Nicole Doty, and Audwin Fletcher indicated that obesity has transformed from a rarity to a commonplace issue in a period of 15 years. In 1990, obesity rates among the population did not exceed 15% in any of the 50 states; by 2010, all but six of the states had obesity rates at 20% or higher, with 32% of U.S. adults being obese.
Recent increases in obesity rates are especially disheartening, given the health consequences associated with the condition. As the researchers for the ABNF Journal pointed out, obesity poses a threat to public health, killing over 300,000 Americans a year.
Because obesity is so detrimental to the health of Americans, it is important that they understand its causes so they can take preventative measures and evade the consequences of having excess body fat. All of the following are correlated with an increased risk of being obese.
Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Obesity
V.E. Shephard, the author of a study published in Practice Nurse, attributed obesity to the fact that in modern times, copious amounts of calories are available to Americans. This, coupled with the fact that many foods are calorie-dense, leads people to consume more calories than they use during their daily activities, resulting in a positive energy balance, and, inevitably, weight gain.
Also contributing to a positive energy balance, according to Shephard, is the fact that modernization has led to fewer people engaging in physical activity, as they opt to drive to work, instead of walking or riding a bike. She also suggested that opportunities for recreational exercise seem to have decreased.
Childhood Weight and Obesity
Recent research has indicated that being overweight as a child is correlated with being obese as an adult. According to work published by researchers in an edition of the International Journal of Obesity, having a high body mass index at age six is associated with being obese as an adult; furthermore, having excess body fat at the age of six makes an individual more likely to be overweight for life.
To fight against this fact, the researchers recommended attacking obesity early on in life, by helping children to maintain healthy body weights through the discouragement of both sedentary behaviors and the consumption of excess calories.
Genetic Factors Contributing to Obesity
In an edition of Nature, Jeffery Friedman explained that gene mutations can contribute to obesity. The ob gene, for example, regulates the hormone leptin, which is responsible for food intake and energy expenditure. Mutations in the ob gene can prevent the body from forming leptin, consequently result in weight gain.
Such gene mutations may present a potential cause for obesity, but as Friedman acknowledged, this genetic variability accounts for only five to 10% of the cases of morbid obesity, with environment playing a much larger role.
That being said, those who seem to have a genetic propensity to become overweight must make an extensive, legitimate effort to maintain a healthy body mass, engaging in regular physical activity and ensuring that they do not exceed daily caloric needs.
With environmental factors having an impact on obesity, though, it seems that anyone can benefit from limiting caloric intake and regularly exercising. Nutritionists and other medical experts are well aware that such lifestyle choices reduce the risk of obesity, and with the condition costing a reported $60 billion a year (Friedman), there is no excuse for anyone to refrain from taking preventative measures.