The Obesity: Genetic Factors and Biological Causes

On the modern scale of diseases obesity appears to be one of the most alarming occurrences. Traditionally obesity has been defined through the BMI (body mass index) — the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters — with the BMI over 30 classified as obese, according to the World Health Organization (“Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet”). In the recent years a steady increase in obesity rates has been observed: according to current research more than 30% of US population are classified as clinically obese (Caballero, p. 2) and at least 400 million people suffer obesity all around the world (WHO, “Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet”). Consequently, obesity acquires a status of epidemics and is viewed as one of the leading preventable causes of diseases.

In order to efficiently treat obesity, it appears necessary to determine the causes leading to it. Specialists single out three major groups of those: a) dietary and physical activity factors; b) environmental and social factors; and c) individual, or biological susceptibility (WHO, “Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop”). Each of the said reasons has its own share in developing obesity with people, and it is the task of the present paper, firstly, to determine the significance of each specific group of obesity causes in shaping the statistics of obesity worldwide, and secondly, to estimate the most important cause of obesity for the purpose of building successful strategies of eliminating its risks with the population.

Medical science has currently experienced a renewed interest in genetic factors leading to obesity. Often heredity is the cause: obese parents are likely to have obese children (WHO, “Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop”, pp. 134-135). Secondly, there exists a genetic predisposition to obesity which reveals itself under certain environmental conditions, e.g. when exposing an obesity-susceptible person to a high-fat diet (WHO, “Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop”, p. 135). However, genetic research of obesity is admitted to be at its developing stage, and the results of it are not likely to be used in practice still for many years on end.

Apart from genetic-related inclination to obesity, there also exist several other biological factors, determining the risk of weight gain. Among them one should mention sex (women tend to possess increased fat deposits as compared to men), ethnicity (especially in certain ethnic minorities who were forced to change their habitual lifestyle due to social reasons), critical periods for developing of obesity (such as pregnancy or menopause) (WHO, “Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop”, pp. 137-139). Despite the possibility of certain weight-controlling measures, so far biological obesity factors prove to be quite impossible to eliminate, requiring additional research and insight in the problem.

Whatever blame is placed on biological causes of obesity, an even bigger part in developing excess weight is nowadays played by environmental and social factors. No genetic changes could have happened in such a short period of time within which humanity has witnessed an obesity crisis. Therefore the cause must be sought not inside the body itself, but in the surrounding situation instead. One of the characteristic features of modern society is seen through modernization of every aspect of human life. Rapid population grown, industrialization and active involvement of women in the working process have led to the necessity of developing alternative foods and nutrition patterns, with less time spent on producing and cooking meals and increased fast-food popularity. The use of various energy-saving technical devices has led to dramatic decline in physical activity. Moreover, it has become economically unprofitable to produce and sell healthy foods; consequently, the media are promoting high-fat foods thus shaping the people’s image of nutritional habits and patterns. Considering all of the aforementioned, the huge role of social factors as obesity causes becomes obvious; however there still remains an even stronger influence which must not be overlooked.

Despite all the pressure exerted on people by social environment, they still remain in control of their own diet and physical activities routine. Surprising as it may be, the primary cause leading millions of people to obesity turns out to be simple imbalance between the energy they consume and that they spend. The WHO claims

“Dietary factors and physical activity patterns strongly influence the energy balance equation and can be considered to be the major modifiable factors through which many of the external forces promoting weight gain act. In particular, high-fat, energy-dense diets and sedentary lifestyles are the two characteristics most strongly associated with the increased prevalence of obesity worldwide” (“Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop”, p. 108).

Additionally, research conducted by Hu reports a direct connection between the amount of TV watching and the occurrence of obesity (qtd. in Caballero, p. 220). Bearing in mind that it is within human powers to control and balance the energy intake and expenditure, neglecting to do so is the first stepping stone to obesity. On condition that personal dietary and physical habits are monitored, it would be much easier to counteract and decrease the world obesity rates.

Excess weight characteristic of obesity can be invoked by a multitude of causes. However, the most dramatic impact is observed when dietary and physical activity factors are studied. Such factors should be specifically targeted in treating obesity as they appear to be the ones that can be easily modified for the purpose of eliminating obesity risks.

Works Cited

  1. Blatt, Dawn, and Cheri L. Gostic. “The Fundamental Role of Physical Activity and Exercise in Weight Management.” Obesity: Epidemiology, Pathology, and Prevention. Eds. Debasis Bagchi and Harry G. Preuss. Boca Raton, FL:Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, 2007. 219-231
  2. Caballero, Benjamin. “The Global Epidemic of Obesity: An Overview.” Epidemiologic Reviews 29 (2007): 1-5
  3. World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet #311. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2006. Web.
  4. “Understanding How Overweight and Obesity Develop.” Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2000. 100-152.

Outline

I. INTRODUCTION:

  • Thesis: obesity is caused by various factors of different significance

II. BODY PARAGRAPH I:

  • Transition/Opening Sentence: genetic obesity factors are drawing renewed attention of researchers
  • Detail 1: hereditary obesity
  • Detail 2: genetic predisposition
  • Detail 3: non-genetic biological factors

III. BODY PARAGRAPH II:

  • Transition/Opening Sentence: environmental and social factors exerting profound influence on obesity rates
  • Detail 1: change in lifestyles
  • Detail 2: technological advances
  • Detail 3: economically profitable fast-food

IV. BODY PARAGRAPH III:

  • Transition/Opening Sentence: diet and physical activities as the main controllable factors of obesity
  • Detail 1: disbalance between energy consumption and expenditure
  • Detail 2: overeating can be restrained

V. CONCLUSION:

  • Reconfirmed Thesis: dietary and physical activity factor as prevailing one in the multitude of obesity causes