WHAT CAUSES OBESITY?
WHAT MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE ABOUT OBESITY IS WRONG. LET’S START TO FIGHT THAT WITH THE FACTS.
Dr Schoonbee looks at the factors
IT is one of the great mysteries of the universe that some of us store food as unwanted fat in those double chins, ‘man boobs’ and ‘love handles’ and on our thighs and bums, while others seem to live a far unhealthier lifestyle and eat as much as they like without gaining a gram.
Most people think obesity is caused by consuming more calories than your body needs, or by being a total sloth – obese folk just need to stop being so greedy and get exercising, right?
Wrong. On both counts.
The real reasons some of us tend to become obese: IT’S HEREDITARY
Families share genetic characteristics that may lead to obesity. Obese babies born to obese mothers have a much greater chance of becoming obese adults.
Fat distribution is also genetically determined to some extent. Are you an apple or a pear? Chances are you’ll see similar fat distribution in other members of your family too. Rare chromo- somal abnormalities like PraderWilli syndrome, which causes constant hunger, can also be responsible for morbid obesity.
But there are many other factors besides our genes that cause obesity, such as:
THE TYPES OF FOOD WE EAT
This is probably the most common cause of obesity currently. Since the ’50s we’ve been the victims of wrong advice: the misinterpretation of research data led to the idea that obesity and heart disease are caused by eating too much fat and too many calories in general. So, in an effort to reverse the obesity epidemic, the World Health Organisation encouraged us to limit our calorie intake and the fats in our diet. But this strategy has failed miserably – levels of obesity are still increasing globally.
Evidence is mounting that the biggest cause of obesity – in wealthy and poverty-stricken countries alike – is the consumption of large amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars (especially fructose) in our daily diets. This leads to insulin resistance and, in turn, metabolic syndrome, the markers of which include obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and unhealthy blood lipid profiles.
Although insulin is the primary hormone responsible for obesity, other hormones and hormonal changes can also contribute to the increase in the amount of fat in our fat cells. A condition like hypothyroidism, for example, causes weight gain, but is treatable with medication.
Hormonal changes at midlife cause weight gain – mainly around the waist.
Stress levels sky-high? When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol and adrenaline, which stop the breakdown of fat. Sleeping too little, or poorly? Complete couch potato? These can also cause weight gain.
Certain medications cause weight gain in some. These include insulin for type 2 diabetics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and some beta-blockers.
THE LAST WORD
There are many other possible causes of obesity, and researchers are working on unravelling the mystery. Many studies are looking at the role of the microbiota – the bacteria in the large intestine – in controlling weight. But in the meantime, let’s fight obesity by addressing the issues we are able to. That starts with making positive lifestyle changes and following a low-carb, healthy fat eating plan.