Causes of Morbid Obesity
We’ve all heard the remarks about morbidly obese people – “They have no willpower,” “They eat too much.” In reality, with advances in medical and scientific research, we are learning that the causes of excess weight and morbid obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom, it is not simply a result of overeating. Studies have shown that, in many cases, a significant, underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetic. And unfortunately, once the problem is established, weight loss efforts such as dieting and exercise programs have a limited ability to provide effective long-term relief. Further, over the past decade, childhood obesity in America, and more specifically child obesity in New Jersey, has become another point of concern.
Science continues to search for answers. But until obesity as a disease is better understood, the control of excess weight and morbid obesity is something that patients must work at for their entire lives. It is important to understand that all current medical interventions, including weight loss surgery, should not be considered medical cures. Rather, they are attempts to reduce the effects of excessive weight and alleviate the serious physical, emotional and social consequences of the disease.
Contributing Factors to Obesity
The underlying causes of severe obesity are not known. There are many factors that contribute to the development of obesity including genetic, hereditary, environmental, metabolic and eating disorders. There are also certain medical conditions that may result in obesity, such as those that require the intake of steroids and hypothyroidism.
Genetic Factors Affecting Obesity
Numerous scientific studies have established that genetics play an important role in one’s tendency to gain excess weight and their risks of becoming obese.
Studies on genetic factors affecting obesity have shown that the body weight of adopted children shows no correlation to the body weight of their adoptive parents, those who feed them and teach them how to eat. Their weight, however, does have an 80% correlation with their genetic parents whom, in most cases, they have never met.
Identical twins, with the same genes, show a much higher similarity of body weights than do fraternal twins, who have different genes.
Certain groups of people, such as the Pima* Indian tribe in Arizona, have a very high incidence of severe obesity. They also have significantly higher rates of diabetes and heart disease than other ethnic groups.
We probably have a number of genes directly related to weight. Just as some genes determine eye color or height, others affect our appetite, our ability to feel full or satisfied, our metabolism, out fat-storing ability, and even our natural activity levels.
Environmental and genetic factors are closely intertwined when related to obesity. If you have a genetic predisposition toward obesity, then the modern American lifestyle and environment may make controlling your weight more difficult.
Fast food, long days sitting at a desk, and suburban neighborhoods that require cars all magnify hereditary factors such as metabolism and fat storage, causing an increased likelihood of obesity.
For those suffering from morbid obesity, anything less than a total change in environment usually results in failure to reach and maintain a healthy body weight.
Weight Loss and Metabolism
We used to think of weight gain or loss simply as a function of calories consumed and burned. Take in more calories that you burn – gain weight; burn more calories than you ingest – lose weight. But we now know the equation is not that simple.
Obesity researchers now talk about a theory called the “set point.” A sort of thermostat in the brain that makes people resistant to either weight gain or loss. If you try to override the set point by drastically cutting your calorie intake, your brain responds by lowering the metabolism and slowing activity. You then gain back any weight you have lost.
Eating Disorders & Medical Conditions
Weight loss surgery is not a cure for eating disorders, nor one for medical conditions such as hypothyroidism that can also cause weight gain. That’s why it is important that you work with your doctor to make sure that you do not have an underlying, treatable condition, which should be addressed with medication and counseling.
Childhood Obesity in America
We have seen an alarming rise in childhood obesity in America. By most accounts about one third of the US child population is overweight and obesity rates for children are similarly staggering. It is a trend that must be reversed through research and education, shedding light on the damaging effects of obesity that include mental, physical and social disability.