Obesity is a chronic condition that a person suffers from when he or she has excessive body fat, which can impact his or her health negatively. Usually, if your body weight is at least 20% more than what it should ideally be, then you are suffering from obesity. A BMI or body mass index of 30 or more can also indicate this condition. An obese individual is more prone to diseases like heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems, respiratory problems, and even cancer, when compared to a person who has normal weight. So, it is essential to understand the different factors that cause obesity.
Common Causes of Obesity:
Commonly, obesity can occur due to lifestyle or genetic factors or even due to a lack of sufficient sleep. Here is a closer look at some of the major reasons:
- Overeating: Consuming more than necessary amounts of fried foods, processed foods, sweets, sweetened beverages and refined foods can lead to obesity. High-calorie fast foods and drinks like pastries, pizzas, burgers, and colas are often consumed by busy professionals every day. Coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, these can cause excess weight gain.
- Lack of Physical Activities: Most people nowadays choose to watch television, play computer games or watch movies on their phones, instead of playing a sport like football, badminton, or going for a run. People also choose elevators over stairs and use cars rather than walk or ride a cycle. This lack of sufficient physical activity means that fewer calories are burned.
- Genetic Factors: Researches have shown that obesity can be inherited, especially if one or both your parents are obese. In such cases, you will have 25% more chance to gain excess weight, when compared to an individual with non-obese parents. Scientists from the University College London also showed that FTO, a faulty gene, can cause one in six people to overeat.
- Lack of Ample Sleep: Not getting enough sleep can double your chances of becoming obese, as a research conducted by the Warwick Medical School shows. Insufficient sleep can lead to Ghrelin production, a hormone that increases appetite. This also suppresses Leptin production, a hormone that reduces appetite.
Diseases that Cause Obesity:
At times, obesity is not caused by overeating or following a sedentary lifestyle or due to faulty genes. The following diseases and the associated hormonal imbalances can cause you to gain excessive weight too:
- Cushing’s Syndrome: When the adrenal glands situated on top of your kidneys produce excessive cortisol, a steroid hormone, it is known as Cushing’s syndrome. This condition can lead to the accumulation of fat on your upper back, abdomen and face.
- Hypothyroidism: In this condition, your thyroid gland will produce very little thyroid hormone. Since this hormone regulates metabolism, insufficient amounts of it can cause metabolism to slow down. Consequently, you end up gaining weight.
- Arthritis: This disease causes joints to become stiff and inflamed, and the condition is painful too. It restricts easy movements and can reduce the amount of physical activity you can get. Consequently, it leads to excessive weight gain.
- Depression: The negative emotional state of depression can sometimes suppress a person’s appetite, but in most cases, it can lead to overeating or binging. The affected individual usually craves high fat food items or sugary treats during this phase to feel good, further aggravating the problem.
Obesity Caused by Leptin and Growth Hormones:
Apart from the diseases mentioned above, certain other hormonal imbalances can also cause obesity:
- Leptin: Fat cells produce this hormone and it suppresses your appetite by reducing the urge to eat, in your brain. It signals when you are full and also regulates the way your body stores fat. Though leptin levels are higher in obese people, they don’t respond well to its effects, and hence continue eating even after they are actually full.
- Growth Hormone: This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, and is responsible for the height, bone health and muscle growth of a person. This hormone also impacts metabolism, and if it is produced insufficiently, it can cause obesity.
Medications that Cause Obesity:
Sometimes, medicines prescribed to treat certain diseases can lead to obesity. These might affect your metabolism negatively, enhance appetite, might increase the amount of fat and sugars your body stores, and might cause you to retain water. These can lead to excess weight gain. Some of such medications that cause obesity are:
- Diabetes medicines like thiazolidinediones, insulin and sulfonylureas
- Antipsychotic medicines such as clozapine, lithium and haloperidol
- Antidepressants like paroxetine, amitriptyline and sertraline
- Medicines to treat epilepsy like carbamazepine and valproate
- Medicines with steroid hormones such as birth control pills or prednisone
- Beta-blockers or medicines that reduce blood pressure
Obesity and Women’s Health:
Being obese can affect a woman’s health and well-being in different ways. It can increase the chances of coronary artery diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and lower back pain. Some ways in which obesity can impact a woman’s fertility and pregnancy are:
- Obesity can make conceiving difficult, as it affects the quality of eggs and reduces the chances of monthly ovulation.
- Obesity can increase the chances of cesarean section, leading to risky obstetrical conditions.
- Maternal obesity can cause malformations in the newborn or lead to neonatal mortality.
- Obesity in new mothers can result in reduced intention, initiation and duration of breastfeeding.
- Obese women are more likely to get breast, endometrial, cervical and ovarian cancers.
Perception of Obesity:
In most countries including India, the perception of obesity is negative as it is linked with several diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and even cancers. Hence, an obese individual is considered unfit, prone to ailments and one who has low life expectancy. Obese people also face social stigma, discrimination and might suffer from embarrassment, low self-confidence and depression. Since obesity in women can often cause infertility or affect the chances of her getting married, this invites more criticism in certain cultures.
Although, awareness about obesity and its possible causes are making the general public more sympathetic and understanding towards obese individuals, and this is likely to encourage the latter to take control of their condition.
Tests for Obesity:
Obesity is usually diagnosed with a physical examination, and the patient’s eating habits, level of physical activity, and lifestyle are reviewed. If the patient is on any medication or has other health problems, those are considered too. Also, here are the two major tests that are conducted to test for obesity:
- BMI and Waist Size: Your weight in kg will be divided by height in meters, and then divided by height again, to get BMI. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal, while 25 to 29.9 indicates you are overweight. A BMI of 30 or above indicates obesity. Waist size of above 35 inches in women, and above 40 inches in men, indicate obesity.
- Blood Test: A thyroid test, fasting blood glucose test, a cholesterol test and liver function tests might be suggested by the doctor to diagnose the cause of your obesity, or to check if some health problem is causing the condition.
You can contact Medlife on 7022000900 or check Obesity profile test and Medlife Labs, to book a time for lab tests or home sample collection.
By making some lifestyle changes, following a healthy diet and by exercising regularly, it is possible to manage obesity and lose weight. In case the condition is due to any illness or medication your doctor can suggest the best solution.