Obesity, not always of overeating
Million of individuals are fighting the battle against the weight gain, fat deposits in their bodies. Today while men and women are concerned about their changing weight and shape, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is steadily being increased over the years.
In the past 20 years, the rates of obesity have tripled in developing countries that have been adopting a Western lifestyle involving decreased physical activity and over consumption of cheap, energy dense food. Obese individuals have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of death from all causes, compared to the normal individuals (BMI 2025). Most of the increased risk is due to the cardiovascular causes. Life expectancy of a moderately obese person could be shortened by 2 to 5 years.
Unfortunately, there is a general misunderstanding about obesity. Popular culture oversimplifies this complex condition into an idea that — one is fat because one eats more. Such a one-eyed clarification hardly explains why some individuals can eat what they want and never gain an ounce, while others constantly fight to keep their weight down.
Basically, weight gain occurs when our bodies store more calories than they use. That is the simple explanation but the definition of obesity encompasses and depends on a number of factors:
Genes and heredity factors
Obesity tends to run in families, implying genetic factors. The search for an "obesity gene" is complicated.
Now a days people are inundated with fast food, processed food and enriched food choices on a daily basis. Advertisements of these food products doing boast of their nutrition values, ease of preparation and to make our lives easier.
It is no surprise that psychological factors and behavioral problems may cause weight gain in people. Evidence show that many people eat when they are stressed, bored or angry. Over time, the association between an emotion and food can become firmly fixed.
Research shows that depression and stress are leading causes of obesity and eating disorders. Indeed, obesity can be traced to behavioral or psychological difficulties.
Physical causes of obesity should always be considered. Certain physical disorders can lead to overeating, or interfere with the body's mechanism that regulates calorie use.
In Cushings Syndrome, increased levels of cortisol (stress hormone) are secreted. Cortisol believed to increase the appetite, which may be a indirect cause of obesity. Cortisol activates enzymes to store fat when it contacts fat cells. Central fat cells are deep abdominal visceral cells, which are a fast energy source in times of stress. These central fat cells also happen to have four times more cortisol receptors than the fat cells found right beneath the skin.
Research is slowly revealing how hormones play a role in obesity. Neurological damage can also interfere with proper calorie intake, especially if the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite, is damaged.
Certain medications can also be a cause of obesity. Consult your physician if there is any medication which could be responsible for your obesity after the treatment.
Stress is widely thought to lead to overeating. Studies done by Western Psychiatric Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, on stress-induced eating have tested two models showed that stress-induced eating causes obesity.
Stress also triggers binge eating. Without treatment, binge eating disorders can lead to obesity. Binge eating disorders also often lead to vitamin deficiencies, as the food consumed are usually unhealthy.
That is why chronic psychological stress has an effect on body shape through fat distribution, creating what is commonly referred to as an "apple" body shape.
Caffeine also helps in cortisol secretion, which is in much more than coffee. Caffeine is found in so many substances as, over-the-counter medications, chocolate, sodas and tea.
Stress hormone targets your nervous system and brain which increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and stimulates your "fight or flight" stress response. In fact, caffeine reduces your threshold for stress so that you are not able to handle it well.
It was found that the neurological basis of the link between obesity and insomnia make them both independent and related products of the over-activated hypocretin system.
Studies demonstrated the same association of insomnia and obesity and suggested a good night sleep to help counter obesity. Sleep and cortisol are entwined.
It is believed that a lack of quality sleep, known as deep or rapid-eye-movement sleep, can impede surges of growth hormone, resulting in increased fat tissue and reduced muscle mass. Sleep deprivation, which causes lower body temperature and fatigue, usually leads to increased food consumption to boost energy and help you stay warm.
Other factors can also be named as reason of obesity, as, sedentary habit, low energy spending, underlying medical causes, etc. Obesity places great strain on the body, as well as contributing to low self-esteem and depression. Sooner or later, obesity can result in serious complications, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
We have to remember that obesity develops over time and cannot be solved overnight. We have to keep in mind the dangerous complications of drugs for reducing obesity and should not expect dramatic and unrealistic changes.
The writer is a Programme Officer of Partners in Population and Development (PPD).