Risk Factors and Causes of Obesity
In scientific terms, obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns. What causes this imbalance between calories in and calories out may differ from one person to another.
The causes of obesity can be classified under:
We used to think that an overweight or obese person eat "like a pig." It may be true in most cases; however, research studies conducted during the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed that we may be quick to pass the blame. These studies showed that many overweight persons may not necessarily eat more than their thinner counterparts. Instead, they had more complicated, biologically seated factors working against them (commonly called "bad genes"). Let us look at some evidence:
Scientists speculate that a few different fat genes may have survived from past generations of people who struggled against starvation during times of food scarcity. Such genes allowed them to eat and store calories when food was plentiful. Then, when food was scarce, the genes helped the people burn fewer calories so that they could live off their fat as long as needed, thus helping them to survive, researchers theorize.
The hereditary causes contributing to the predisposition to obesity include:
Television watching has been demonstrated to be linked to the onset of obesity. The more TV one watches, the greater the degree of obesity. TV watching leads to childhood obesity, and excess weight in adults. One clinical study of 4,771 adult women examined the relationship between time spent watching television per week and obesity. Twice as many women who reported watching three or more hours of TV per day were obese, compared to the reference group of women who watched less than one hour of television per day.
There are several physiological effects of watching TV that promote obesity. TV watching reduces physical activity. It was also found to lower the resting (basal) metabolic rate to a level similar to that experienced during trancelike states.
We respond to external stimuli such as the sight, smell, and taste of food, which can trigger almost addictive tendencies to eating. We are constantly bombarded by advertising, and one of the biggest culprits is television. Around meal times, advertisers promote their fast food products, which trigger memories of sweet, fat, and other stimulatory tastes. Trance-like effect that is created by TV-watching leaves the brain thinking it needs something and, not knowing exactly what it wants, it decides that food is the easiest answer.
People who watch a lot of TV also happens to do least amount of exercise (couch potatoes). All these factors contribute to obesity and weight gain.
The United States is a sedentary nation. In spite of a decrease in average caloric intake of 40 percent in the last 130 years, the decrease in physical exertion has been even greater. In the majority of obese people, caloric intake habitually exceeds caloric loss from physical activity, movement, and exertion.
An excess-starch diet
The most fattening food is starch. People who eat excessive amounts of starch are prone to gain weight. The foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and beans contain an excess of starch. A healthy diet should include thyroid-stimulating foods such as adequate protein, sea salt, fruit, and coconut oil, in addition to organic vegetables.
Food with Low Qi or Vital Force
Dr. Rajendra Sharma, Medical Director of Hale Clinic and author of "The Family Encyclopedia of Health" has proposed an interesting theory on the causes of obesity that is plaguing the developed country. His proposal deserves serious consideration. According to him,
It is interesting that obesity is a problem for those who eat "modern, processed" food. The chicken, beef, etc. are grown specifically feeding them with high calorie fattening food and hormones that will fatten them quick. The people who eat this food, probably gets the hormones with the food and get obese as a result. We do know that the hormones and other characteristics can be transmitted through egg, milk, etc.
Dr. Sharma points out that obesity is much more a problem in the developed countries of the world. So called underdeveloped cultures that remain untouched by modern advances and refined foods are not overweight. Interestingly, people in the Third-World countries who consume refined and high-fat foods have much greater levels of obesity, and a shorter life expectancy. The Africans who live within the cities tend to be overweight. However, the native, indigenous peoples not affected by unnatural foods tend to maintain a healthier, lower weight.
So, our concept of what is healthy need to be redefined if we have to keep ourselves healthy.
Metabolism is deficient in many overweight people for genetic reasons and lack of physical exercise. The metabolism of stored fat in the body is considerably below that of lean tissue. So the metabolic rate of obese people is well below that of lean people, reduced by the sluggish metabolism of fat; this vicious cycle is difficult to break without vigorous physical activity.
Certain disease states are also associated with a greater likelihood of obesity, including diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension, hypopituitarism, and hyperlipidemias.
For example, an underactive thyroid gland can slow down metabolism and lead to weight gain. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is caused not only by the inability to digest sugar (sucrose, lactose, and maltose) but also protein, because 56% of digested protein is converted to glucose (blood sugar) as needed by the body. People in this category can be either fat or thin, depending on how much of what they eat is digested. How the body uses insulin is another factor. If your body lacks the ability to clear insulin from the bloodstream quickly, you may feel hungry even when you have eaten enough.
Candidiasis and parasites
An overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans and parasitic conditions can cause bloating and weight gain.
Food and environmental allergies and sensitivities
Edema resulting from the ingestion of allergens or from exposure to environmental allergens can cause weight gain.
Food allergies evoke craving responses and an addiction-like pattern. Under these circumstances overeating can often be traced to intake of unusually large amounts of the foods to which there is an excessive and distorted attraction ("craving").
For example, a young man lost weight just by eliminating wheat -to which he was allergic- from his diet. Nothing else was altered.
In another case, a woman gained ten pounds when she bought a down jacket to which she was allergic. When she gave away the jacket, the weight disappeared. In general, whatever a person is allergic to, whether it's feathers or fat, can cause weight gain.
Environmental poisons (enzyme inhibitors)
These include heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury), pesticides, synthetic substances such as margarine, and many common chemicals used by industry, agriculture, and consumers. Enzyme poisons can interrupt important metabolic processes in the body, some of which control fat burning and appetite.
Men whose birth weights were over 10 pounds carry twice the risk of being overweight adults compared to those whose birth weight was under five and a half pounds. Women have a two-thirds greater risk. It is also known that there is a consistent relationship between the number of fat cells, fixed at birth, and the adult tendency to be obese. The reasons why these two factors influence adult weight are unclear.
Emotional and Mental Factors
Psychological factors may also influence eating habits. Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger.
Most overweight people have no more psychological problems than people of average weight. Still, up to 10 percent of people who are mildly obese and try to lose weight on their own or through commercial weight loss programs have binge eating disorder. This disorder is even more common in people who are severely obese.
During a binge eating episode, people eat large amounts of food and feel that they cannot control how much they are eating. Those with the most severe binge eating problems are also likely to have symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. These people may have more difficulty losing weight and keeping it off than people without binge eating problems.
According to Dr. Rajendra Sharma, Medical Director of Hale Clinic and author of 'The Family Encyclopedia of Health,' "There is a strong psychological aspect (to obesity), which is both conscious and subconscious. Consciously, some people may not accept the social or medical rules and may choose to eat in excess. These people may also shy away from exercise and, provided that their obesity is not harming their health and they are happy, there is no reason for them to change their attitudes. The subconscious, however, may not necessarily be making them happy or healthy. We respond to external stimuli such as the sight, smell, and taste of food, which can trigger almost addictive tendencies to eating."
Excessive caloric intake from unrestrained eating, including habits such as frequent snacking in the west, is often associated with factors other than hunger. Eating may be triggered by learned responses from childhood. Childhood and adult obesity are much more common in those whose parents use or tended to use more manipulative negative and positive prompting to control their eating as children.
Food is often used as a source of pleasure by some people. These people have experienced previous traumas in life that limit their ability to find sources of pleasure not associated with food. This leads to overeating and obesity.
Food is often used as a centerpiece of social affairs in the west. We have business breakfast, luncheon, dinner, etc. We are obligated to attend social functions such as dinner parties, featuring sumptuous meals. Eating can often carry a sense of social obligation. Television watching and obesity are highly associated; the more of one, the more of the other.
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