Obesity rates are skyrocketing around the world. This is partly due to the fact that, as technology makes our lives more and more convenient, our behaviors are becoming increasingly sedentary as a result. However, as you may know, there are also many biological factors that contribute to obesity.
Of course, the line is blurred between some biological factors and some behaviors, but they all affect whether one becomes obese. Given this caveat, here are five major biological factors that cause obesity.
Improper Energy Balance
If your energy balance is off, then you're more likely to become overweight or obese. The term "energy balance" refers to the equilibrium achieved between a person's energy intake versus their output. This means the calories you ingest are weighed against the amount of energy your body metabolizes through regular bodily functions and via physical activity.
To keep your weight at a healthy level, it's best to achieve as consistent a balance as you can. This doesn't mean that your intake has to be matched to your output every day, but over a longer timeline, it's what will allow you to have a healthy body weight. Weight gan and weight loss are both facilitated by the amount of energy coming in and the amount of energy going out of the body.
Genetics play a pivotal role in determining a person's weight. This has been proved time and time again by studying pairs of identical twins who've been adopted by different families and/or raised in separate homes. Certain families are more predisposed to being overweight and obese than others; unfortunately, if either (or both) of your parents had weight problems, then you're much more likely to have those problems as well.
How and where your body stores fat is also affected by your genes too. According to a recent study by UCLA, the degree to which a high-fat diet makes you gain weight is determined very much by your genetic constitution. Although diet and exercise are still a large part in how this works, it seems genetics play a larger role in determining weight and obesity than had ever been imagined.
Hormonal disorders are another major biological factor that can cause someone to be overweight or obese. These include Cushing's syndrome, hypothyroidism, and PCOS. The first of these, Cushing's syndrome, causes your body to produce too much cortisol, a hormone that is excreted by the adrenal glands. This causes fat to develop particularly around the mid-section of the body, rather than the limbs.
The second disorder, hypothyroidism, is a disorder where the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. This results in slowed metabolism, increased weight gain, and feelings of general tiredness and exhaustion. Doctors can perform a simple blood test if they suspect thyroid disease is a cause for a patient's obesity.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects roughly 7.5% of reproductive-age women. This condition is often associated to obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Extra hair growth, reproductive issues, and other health problems are also commonly related to this disorder.
Ironically, a lot of the drugs used to treat conditions associated to obesity (diabetes, depression, and blood pressure) actually can cause patients to gain more weight. These include corticosteroids, antidepressants, seizure medicines, and more -- according to recent studies, obesity is linked to antipsychotic drugs if the user possesses a certain variant of a gene.
Typically, these medications have undesirable side-effects that put the user at risk for becoming obese. These side-effects include slowing your body's metabolism, making you more hungry, and even retaining extra fluids.
Failing to get a good night's sleep also raises your chance of becoming overweight and possibly obese. Studies have shown that, in multiple age groups, the likelihood of becoming obese is raised for each hour of sleep you miss. Missing sleep also tends to cause people to eat more unhealthy foods, and to eat more of them. Insulin reactions and blood sugar levels are also affected.
All of these repercussions translate into increasing one's chances of gaining weight. And for people who experience chronic insomnia, the chances of obesity are raised even higher.
With more than 60% of America's population verging on obesity, it's clear that people increase their awareness of what causes obesity. It's also important that the issue is no longer seen as being one of simply overeating. By understanding the interplay between biological factors and behavioral factors, we'll be able to come up with better and more realistic solutions for the problem.