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Essay: Obesity – causes and problems

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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Words: 1,048 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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Obesity has become an epidemic in America that has claimed over 160 million Americans. Some causes of obesity include, but are not limit to, eating habits – the types of foods eaten is just one aspect of eating habits. The habit of eating regular meals, including eating breakfast, is associated with lower risk of obesity whereas a less structured lifestyle that includes frequently eating unhealthy snacks while also pursuing other tasks is associated with higher risk of obesity. Another important eating habit associated with increased risk of obesity is large portion sizes. Even when healthy foods are selected, the amount consumed is a very important consideration: Eating too much can lead to obesity, physical activity level – the amount of time a person is physically active and the type of exercise that he or she takes affects the amount of energy he or she uses. Put another way, physical activity affects metabolic rate, which determines the amount of energy a person needs to consume in food – hence the amount of food energy intake beyond which he or she is likely to store excess food energy as fat. Low levels of physical activity are associated with higher risk of obesity: Not taking enough exercise may therefore be included as one of the causes of obesity, psychological factors – stress can affect body mass. Depending on a person’s biochemical and psychological responses to emotions such as stress, anxiety, depression and self-worth he or she may lose weight during periods of intense emotion – either due to his or her metabolic responses and/or, in some cases, due to a tendency to eat less under those circumstances. Alternatively, in the same situation other people may respond by eating and/or drinking more, and/or consuming more of the types of foods and drinks that are most likely to result in weight gain, potentially leading to obesity. In some cases, extreme eating can be a form of stress-induced behavior engaged in for emotional reasons rather than due to nutritional need for the food. The initial stress may be due to a wide variety of causes such as bullying at school or at work, relationship break-down, bereavement or business/financial problems, hormonal factors – hormones secreted by the endocrine glands in the body can also affect risk of obesity, especially via their impact on metabolism and metabolic rate. As mentioned above (in 4. Metabolic Factors), the hormone thyroxin (secreted by the thyroid gland) is important for regulation of BMR. Insufficient production and release of thyroxin can result in a condition called hypo-thyroidism whose symptoms include decrease in BMR, weight gain and lethargy (among others). The body’s energy and other nutritional requirements also change during pregnancy – whose processes are controlled by other hormones. Hormone problems are therefore one of the medically-related causes of obesity in some people, and genetic factors – correlation between the body mass index (BMI) of parents and their children may be explained in terms of both environmental factors, i.e. children learn lifestyle habits from their parents (as mentioned in 7., above) and genetics. It has been suggested that there is a genetic contribution to some people’s chances of becoming obese. However, even in cases in which this applies, obesity is not an inevitable consequence because healthy food and lifestyle choices can make a huge difference.

Just like the long list of causes of obesity, the incredibly long list of problems associated with obesity is continuously growing. A few effects of obesity are, insulin resistance – insulin is necessary for the transport of blood glucose into the cells of muscle and fat. By transporting glucose into cells, insulin keeps the blood glucose levels in the normal range. Insulin resistance is the condition whereby the effectiveness of insulin in transporting glucose into cells is diminished. Fat cells are more insulin resistant than muscle cells; therefore, one important cause of insulin resistance is obesity. The pancreas initially responds to insulin resistance by producing more insulin. As long as the pancreas can produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, blood glucose levels remain normal. This insulin resistance state can last for years. Once the pancreas can no longer keep up with producing high levels of insulin, blood glucose levels begin to rise, resulting in type 2 diabetes, thus insulin resistance is a pre-diabetes condition, Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes – the risk of type 2 diabetes increases with the degree and duration of obesity, Type 2 diabetes is associated with central obesity; a person with central obesity has excess fat around his/her waist, so that the body is shaped like an apple, high blood pressure – high blood pressure is common among obese adults. A Norwegian study showed that weight gain tended to increase blood pressure in women more significantly than in men, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack – A prospective study found that the risk of developing coronary artery disease increased three to four times in women who had a BMI greater than 29. A Finnish study showed that for every 1 kilogram increase in body weight, the risk of death from coronary artery disease increased by 1%. In patients who have already had a heart attack, obesity is associated with an increased likelihood of a second heart attack, congestive heart failure, cancer – obesity has been linked to cancer of the colon in men and women, cancer of the rectum and prostate in men, and cancer of the gallbladder and uterus in women. Obesity may also be associated with breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. Fat tissue is important in the production of estrogen, and prolonged exposure to high levels of estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer, gallstones, gout and gouty arthritis, osteoarthritis of the knees, hips, and the lower back, and sleep apnea.

However, these effects can all be prevented. Physical exercise and aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week improves cardiovascular health. If injured, pursuing an activity that avoids the injured muscle group or joint can help maintain physical function while recovering. Weight loss can, also, improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of complications related to obesity. A low carbohydrate diet that limits grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Another diet that can help obesity is a low-fat diet that reduces the intake of high-fat foods such as dairy, oil, and red meat to improve cardiovascular health.

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