In 2012, up to 35% of US adults and 17% of teens were obese. In the Philippines, a 2011 survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) showed that 22.3 percent of Filipino adults are overweight and 6.1 percent are obese. the Philippines and India are among the developing countries with high levels of obesity and undernutrition.
Many people blame obesity on poor dietary choices and inactivity, but it’s not always that simple.
Other factors can have powerful effects on body weight and obesity, some of which are outside of the person’s control.
These include genetics, environmental factors, certain medical conditions and more.
This article lists 9 compelling reasons why obesity is not just a choice.
1. Genetics and Prenatal Factors
Studies show that a lot can be determined while the fetus is still in the womb. For example, the mother’s diet and lifestyle choices matter a great deal, and may influence the baby’s future behaviors and body composition.
Studies show that women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy are more likely to have heavy 3-year-olds. Moreover, children who have obese parents and grandparents are much more likely to be obese than kids with normal-weight parents and grandparents. Another reason for this seemingly continuity of obesity along filial generations is the genes that we inherit our parents which may determine our susceptibility to weight gain.
2. Birth, Infancy, and Childhood Habits
These factors, note, are genetic, and therefore not made by choice of either the mother or the offspring, yet they seem to be linked to the offspring’s obesity risk.
3. Medications or Medical Conditions
Newsflash: Weight gain is a common side effect of many such medications. These include diabetes medications, antidepressants and antipsychotics. These drugs may increase appetite, reduce metabolism, or alter the way the body burns fat (stores them instead of burning them).
Conversely, many common medical conditions can predispose to weight gain. A key example is hypothyroidism.
4. Powerful Hunger Hormones
Science shows that hunger is controlled by very powerful hormones and brain chemicals, involving areas of the brain that are responsible for cravings and rewards. Dysfunctions of these hormones can alter a person’s eating behaviour and cause a strong physiological drive to eat more – this the case with many obese people.
There’s another way hormones can induce obesity: through our brains rewards center, of course aiding and abetting are our feel-good hormones.
Junk food releases much more of these feel-good chemicals than healthy food. This yields a much more powerful “reward” in the brain. So, we eat more and more of this kind of unhealthy foods. This might lead to a vicious cycle of constantly rewarding our cravings, and this resembles addiction.
5. Leptin Resistance
What’s leptin? Leptin is a very important hormone that helps regulate appetite and metabolism.
It is produced by fat cells, and sends a signal to the part of our brain that tells us to stop eating.
Leptin regulates the amount of calories we eat and expend, as well as how much fat our bodies store.
The more fat contained in fat cells, the more leptin they produce. When there is more leptin, the brain thinks we are full. But with the so called leptin resistance. The brain doesn’t recognize the leptin the body produces. The brain wrongly thinks that it is starving, even if it has more than enough body fat stored.
However, people with obesity tend to have a condition called leptin resistance.
So even though our bodies are producing a lot of leptin, the brain doesn’t see or recognize it. When the brain doesn’t receive the leptin signal, it wrongly thinks that it is starving, even if it has more than enough body fat stored. You can guess what happens next: Overeating.
6. Poor Nutrition Education
Studies show that teaching children the importance of a healthy diet and proper nutrition has been shown to help them make better choices later in life. Conversely, improper education (e.g. believing in misinformed TV ads) could eventually lead to poor nutrition choices and obesity, or undernutrition.
7. Food Addiction
There are very addictive foods out there, and food addiction is as real as the sun. Food addiction involves being addicted to junk food in the same way drug addicts are addicted to drugs, and food addiction is a phenotype of obesity.
And this kind of addiction is much more common than you may think. Studies show that up to 20% of people may suffer from food addiction, and this number goes up to about 25% in overweight and obese people.
8. The Effect of Gut Bacteria
Many recent studies show that these bacteria are incredibly important for health.
Interestingly, people with obesity tend to have different gut bacteria than normal-weight people.
But weight, what have these bacteria has to do with obesity?
Well, it was found out that the gut bacteria in overweight or obese individuals may be more efficient at harvesting energy from food, increasing the total caloric value of the diet. Thereby, you get so much more from what you put into your stomach! Okay, so efficient, hardworking bacteria are not good for you. Intiende?
9. The Environment
There are areas called food deserts. They are areas without access to healthy and affordable food. These areas may be found in highly urbanized or very poor rural towns. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, and healthy food providers within walking distance.
Aside from access and supply, other environmental factors may also play a role in obesity, including artificial light from electric light bulbs, computers, phones and televisions.
Even though the link between screen use and obesity has been well established, most studies chalk this up to lack of exercise. However, studies suggest that nighttime exposure to light and changes to the inner circadian rhythm may also contribute to obesity.;
Studies conducted among animals suggest that artificial light may alter the inner circadian clock, making rodents more susceptible to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
No One Chooses to be Obese
Obesity is a multifactorial, and multifaceted problem, one we cannot simply attribute to choice. It is not simply caused by greed, laziness, or lack of willpower. A lot of these factors are completely out of our control, including genetics, childhood habits, medical conditions and hormones.