Saturday, February 27, 2021

Common Causes of Obesity


Is it all genetic?

If you think that you were born to be obese, you may have to rethink that theory. There have been countless studies done concerning obesity and its causes, and while genes do a play a role, they generally do not play the role that you might expect.

obese woman walking

Obese Parents Don’t Necessarily Mean Obese Kids

First, let’s dispel some myths. Regardless of whether it is in your genetic blueprint to be overweight or not, obese parents do not necessarily mean obese kids, unless there is some health problem, such as untreated hypothyroidism that is passed from parent to child.

There are a number of genes that could play a role in obesity, but in the end, it is your eating habits and lifestyle that determine whether you will be overweight or not, regardless of those genes. What is dictated by your genes is whether or not you have a greater chance of being overweight, but not necessarily that you will be overweight if you are more careful about the amount of food and exercise that you have, as well as the types of food that you consume.

Your Genetic Blueprint and Obesity

While you have the power to control your own destiny as an adult, as far as your weight is concerned, most of us have very little control or power as children. This is a time when we learn our eating habits and establish our likes and dislikes as far as food is concerned.

If our parents have unhealthy eating habits and exercise habits, the chances are very good that we will as well. Genes have nothing to do with this. Fortunately, once you are older, you have the option to change the habits that you learned as a child, if you really want to, and while your genes may dictate that you will struggle with your weight all of your life, they in no way play a role in whether or not you have the ability to get weight off and keep it off.

How to Combat Your Genetic Disposition to Obesity

The best way to combat your genetic disposition to obesity is to first be fully aware of it, and second to educate yourself concerning the other causes of obesity. You must learn to eat healthy meals and to get enough exercise to keep your weight in check. A good nutrition class will greatly benefit you. A couple of sessions with a personal trainer will also be highly beneficial, and it is important for these professionals to also know that you have overweight parents, or that you have genes that increase your probability of obesity.

Lack Of Sleep And Obesity

Besides food intake, exercise and genetic background, it seems that sleep is involved in weight control. While other drivers are taken seriously, lack of sleep is often overlooked. There are two main hormones involved in regulating the appetite and food intake, whose levels vary dramatically during sleep – leptin and ghrelin.

obese vacation

What Do These Hormones Do?

Leptin is a hormone with protein structure, involved in both regulating the metabolism and appetite, as well as burning calories. The hormone is produced by the fat tissue and interacts with a number of receptors, especially in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus, known as “the appetite center.” Here it signals the sufficient food intake, and satiety. During sleep, hormone levels rise, sending signals that there is enough energy and there is no need to produce more. When you don’t sleep enough, the leptin may decrease its amount so much that it signals the brain to interpret this as an inadequate dietary intake. The signals sent are those of hunger, though there isn’t actually the need of an increased calorie intake. Thus, the calories are stored in the fat tissue, so they can subsequently be used  as an energy source.

Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the stomach cells and the pancreatic cells, which stimulates appetite. This hormone is produced by the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus as well, where it also stimulates the growth of hormone secretion. At this level, the  cholinergic-dopamine reward system activates,  a circuitry that reinforces the need for rewards such as food, but also substances that can lead to addiction. A study showed that short periods of sleep are associated with high levels of this hormone and obesity. The researchers found an inversely proportional relationship between hours of sleep and the  serum hormone concentrations.

These two hormones secretion occurs in two different times of day, especially during the night, and the relationship between sleep deprivation and obesity can be explained by a change in the level of these hormones,  induced by insufficient sleep.

Jacques Montplaisir, professor in the department of psychiatry and director of the Center for Sleep Problems at Hospital Sacre-Coeur, said that 26% of children who sleep less than 10 hours per night between the ages of 2 years and half  and 6 years are overweight. A team of researchers studied 1138 children and found that: 26% are overweighted, 18.5% had a body mass index between 25 and 30 and 7.4% were obese with a BMI over 30.

Another study analyzed the data of 17,000 participants in 1982, and the results were:

  • – Those who slept about 5 hours a night were 73% more likely to become obese than those who slept 7-9 hours per night,
  • – Those who slept 6 hours per night were 27% more likely to become obese than those who slept 7-9 hours per night,
  • – Those who slept only 2-4 hours per night were 67% more likely to become obese.

In reality, scientists say that further research in this area is needed, but for now the prospect of new therapies in case of obesity is taking shape; there therapies are based mainly on diet changes and sleep adjustments. For now, besides diets, surgical interventions also have a large success among the people who are obese.

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on

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