According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of obesity continues to grow as about one in every three American adults now has the disease. WHO has reported that at least 400 million adults in the world were obese in 2005 and that by 2015 at least 700 million adults in the world will be obese (WHO Media Centre, 2015). At least 300,000 deaths in the U.S. occur each year due to obesity-related causes (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2005).
Many causes or factors have been linked to the onset of obesity. Genetic predisposition, high-calorie diet, sedentary lifestyle behavior, excessive stress, and socioeconomic status have each played a role in increasing the likelihood of becoming obese. Increasing age is a risk factor for obesity due to a gradual lessoning of metabolic rate. More women than men then to become obese probably due to hormonal differences between the genders. Poor people are more prone to becoming obese because they eat processed, high-calorie, cheap food which contains more fat, sugar and salt than healthier, whole food. Protein hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and insulin have each been attributed to bodyfat storage. Research on mice (Enriori, et al., 2007, Cell Metabolism, 5(3), 181-194) has found that the resistance to leptin caused by obesity can cause the body to not respond to the appetite control center within the brain. The result is the body's inability to sense satiety or the feeling of fullness. Genes may determine the fat cell number and size within the body. The set-point theory takes the premise that we each have a certain bodyweight which is unique and governed by internal controls. Increased energy intake from the ready availability of fast food and cheap high-fat, processed food certainly increases the risk of obesity. Excessive alcohol and sugar consumption is a major problem in the U.S. and leads to a high-calorie intake. People who drink soda typically do not reduce their calories elsewhere because soda is not satiating. Adding one can of regular soda per day will cause a bodyweight gain of fifteen pounds per year (U.C. Berkeley Wellness Letter, 2007, Soft drinks, hard questions, 23(5), 2). Sedentary behavior encouraged by excessive television viewing leads to decreased energy expenditure. Stress increases the temptation to eat sugar-laden, high-fat foods.
There are many health consequences related to obesity. The list of maladies is extensive and includes stroke, heart disease, fatty liver disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, certain cancers (i.e., breast, colon, prostate, endometrial, etc.), hypertension, dsylipidemia, gallstones, sleep apnea, lower back pain, and depression.
The prevention and treatment of obesity is primarily dependent on personal willpower, discipline and consistency. Here are ways to reduce your risk of becoming obese:
- Reduce calorie intake from high-sugar, high-fat foods
- Increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts (bonus: increased fiber intake)
- Increase water intake
- Avoid eating or drinking "empty" calorie foods (i.e., alcohol, cookies, pastries, candy, soda, etc.)
- Eat smaller portions
- Increase the number of meals per day (i.e., four to six meals daily)
- Eat slowly
- Increase physical activity (i.e., 150 minutes per week)
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."