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What are the Leading Causes of Obesity?

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What is Obesity?

There are various definitions of obesity. Usually, having a body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy will indicate that the person is obese. Obesity can be a chronic condition and is defined by presence of excess amount of body fat. The best way to find if someone is obese is through Body Mass Index (BMI). The Body Mass Index is measured using a person’s weight and height. The BMI is equal to a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared. As the BMI describes the body’s weight in relation to height, it is strongly associated with total body fat content in adults. An adult with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and an adult with a BMI over 30 is considered obese. For an adult of ideal weight, BMI should be in the range of 18.5 to 24.9.

What Causes Obesity?

A person’s weight is determined by the amount of calorie intake and energy expenditure. A balance between the two will lead to ideal body weight. But if a person eats more calorie than he/she actually burns, the body will store the excess energy as fat, leading to weight gain. Therefore, overeating and physical inactivity remain the most common causes of obesity. There are other factors that also contribute to body weight, including: –


Genes play an important role in an individual’s tendency to gain weight and become obese. A person whose parents are obese is at a greater risk of developing obesity than the one with parents who aren’t obese. There are other genes as well that are vital here; a hormone called Leptin is a great example. Leptin deficiency is one of the genetic causes of obesity. Leptin is a hormone that’s produced in fat cells and in placenta, and controls weight by signaling the brain to eat less when the body’s stores of fat are too high. If the body fails to produce enough Leptin, this vital control is lost and can lead to obesity.


Overeating is a major cause of obesity, especially if the diet is high in fat. Foods that are high in fat or sugar have a high calorie count. A good example of such food is fried food, fast food and sweets. Such foods that are high in fat content contribute to weight gain.

A diet high in simple carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are known to increase blood glucose level; this in turn stimulates the insulin released by pancreas which promotes the growth of fat tissue, leading to weight gain. Foods such as sugars, desserts, drinks, beer, wine, etc. that are rich in simple carbohydrates contribute to weight gain as they are more rapidly absorbed than complex carbohydrates, leading to a more pronounced insulin release after a meal.

Physical inactivity

Sedentary lifestyle is another major cause of obesity. People who are physically inactive burn far lesser calories than people who are active. This leads to an individual gaining weight.


Medication can also be one of the major causes of obesity. Certain medications associated with weight gain are antidepressants, anticonvulsants (used for controlling seizures), medicines for diabetes and certain hormones like the oral contraceptives. Weight gain can also be caused by medication for high blood pressure. The reasons why medications lead to weight gain differ from medicine to medicine.

Psychological factors

For many people, emotions can influence eating habits. Many people turn to food to deal with emotions such as boredom, sadness, stress or anger. While being overweight doesn’t automatically equate to having psychological disturbances, there is still a large number of people who seek treatment for binge eating that is leading to serious weight issues. Also, a number of diseases such hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and insulin resistance contribute to obesity.


Women can gain weight during certain events, such as pregnancy and menopause. In certain cases, the use of oral contraceptive also leads to weight gain.

Health Risks Associated with Obesity

There are a number of diseases caused by obesity, some of which are: –

Insulin resistance

Insulin is required for the transport of blood glucose into the cells of muscle and fat. By moving the glucose into cells, insulin keeps the glucose levels in the normal range. When the effectiveness of insulin in transporting glucose is diminished, the condition is known as Insulin Resistance. Fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells; therefore one of the causes of insulin resistance is obesity. Initially, the pancreas responds to insulin resistance by increasing the production of insulin. As long as enough insulin is produced to overcome this resistance, glucose levels in the blood remain normal but once the levels of insulin fall, the blood sugar level begins to rise, leading to type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

The degree and duration of obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is related with central obesity. A person with central obesity will have excess fat around his/her waist.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure of hypertension is very common among obese adults, and can lead to serious complications.

Heart attack

The risk of developing coronary artery disease is high in obese people. In patients who already have suffered a heart attack, obesity only increases the chances of a second heart attack.


Obesity has been found to be linked to cancer of the colon in men and women, cancer of the rectum and the prostate cancer in men, and cancer of gallbladder and uterus in women.

Obesity Prevention

Whether you are obese, at a risk of becoming obese or at a healthy weight, you can take a number of steps to stop unhealthy weight gain and related health problems. The steps to prevent weight gain involve daily exercise, a healthy diet and long-term commitment to have a control over what you eat and drink. Here are few ways you can lose weight: –


You need to get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to intensive activity a week to prevent weight gain. Exercise can include physical activities such as fast walking and swimming.

Follow a healthy diet plan

Try to consume food that is low on calorie and nutrient rich, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid saturated fat and limit the intake of alcohol and sweets. You should eat three meals a day with some healthy snacks in between.

Avoid food trap

Identify the situations that cause you to binge-eat. Try to keep a note of situations and emotions that make you over eat. Try and avoid such situations and emotions that lead you to binge eat, and you can plan ahead and develop strategies to avoid or handle such situations when they arrive.

Monitor your weight

People who weigh themselves once a week are better at keeping off weight gain at bay than those who don’t. Weight monitoring can tell you whether your efforts to lose those extra kilos are working or not. It can also help you detect small weight gain before it becomes a bigger problem.

To prevent obesity a person needs to be consistent in his/her efforts. Intelligent Ageing provides effective treatment for obesity in Delhi, in the course of which it employs a wellness-based approach to address the root causes.

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