01 Jul 2016

Causes of Obesity

“You Eat too much.”
“You just do not exercise.”
“You and you alone are to blame for your Obesity.

These are statements we hear very often from people who speak to us about weight gain.

What causes obesity? Why do we get fat? Is it so that we are eating too much food and not burning it that much due to our sedentary lifestyle or laziness?

The answer to all these question is not completely yes.

It is true that eating too much and not exercising will create extra stores of energy in the form of fat and contributes to weight gain. But that is not the only reason. Because it not how much we eat but is what we eat that matters most.

All Calories are not the same.

All foods that we eat do not give the same kind of calories. Some portions of our food such as the fructose in our food cannot be broken down completely by the body; most of it is converted into fat and stored away. Whereas the glucose that we eat can be used by our body immediately and hence can be easily broken down rather than be converted into fats.

Hence rather than Over Eating, eating wrong kind of food and not exercising are the major causes of obesity.



Wrong dietary habits and wrong choice of diet can put oneself at the risk of obesity and related health hazards.

A. Excess Intake of Junk Food:

Junk food is high in calories, it is called an energy dense food having negligible nutritive value. Junk food is rich Trans-fats, Sugar [Fructose] and high amounts of salt.

Junk food is harmful for us because,

  1. It Causes Food AddictionThe high amounts of sugar and salt in the food stimulates the Reward Centre in our brain, thus giving us a feel of happiness. If this happens again and again, our brain starts feeling the need for this kind of stimulation again and again. Hence we START CRAVING FOR FOOD. This causes FOOD ADDICTION.
  2. Junk food contains high quantity of Sugar. This sugar has equal amounts of fructose and glucose in it. When we eat fructose it gets converted to fat and stored in the body causing weight gain.
  3. The Trans-fat in junk food increase levels of bad cholesterol(LDL) in our blood putting us at risk of heart problems.

List of junk foods:

  1. Burgers
  2. Pizza
  3. Hot Dogs
  4. Batata Wada
  5. Donuts
  6. Fried wafers and other similar products
  7. Cakes and cookies
  8. Biscuits
  9. French fries

B. Excess Intake of Processed Food:

By definition, Processed foods are such foods which are altered from their natural form for better shelf life. They contain large quantities of sugar (fructose), Vegetable oil, preservatives, trans-fats, Artificial flavours, food colours and Salt.

Processed foods includes any food which is canned, Boxed or packed i.e. ready to eat foodstuffs.

Our taste buds are meant to identify different tastes. More often than not the high quantities of sugar and salt tricks our taste buds as it does not give any single clear taste to the food hence we eat more than necessary.

The examples of processed food are:

  1. Ready to eat soups and meals
  2. Sauces and Ketchups
  3. Canned and frozen vegetables
  4. Breads
  5. Breakfast cereals
  6. Processed cheese
  7. Frozen meals
  8. Fruit juices
  9. Food instant premixes.

C. Sugary/Sweetened Beverages:

Soft drinks are sweet and everyone likes them. But do we know how much sugar is present in each of these beverages?

The sweetener added to these drinks is called HFCS [High Fructose Corn Syrup], a self-explanatory name. HFCS is cheaper than regular sugar but definitely more harmful as it has an even higher concentration of fructose than normal sugar.

We lal have read about the ill effects of Fructose in our diet so we should understand the problems associated with drinking sugary drinks.

In fact in the USA, some states are applying a SUGAR TAX to dissuade people from drinking these soft drinks.

The examples of sugary/Sweetened beverages are:

  1. Canned fruit juices
  2. Soda
  3. Soft Drinks
  4. Energy Drinks

D. Intake of Dietary Obesogens:

Intake of dietary Obesogens in the form of Phytoestrogens or Pesticides can make us fat because of their endocrine disruption function.

a) Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens means the estrogens from plant sources. These estrogens acts as endocrine disruptor i.e They tend to modify our genes and make fat cells to store more amount of fat. This results in excess weight gain.
List of foods rich in phytoestrogens:

  1. Soya bean
  2. Soya sauce
  3. Soya milk
  4. Soya Yoghurt
  5. Tofu

b) Pesticides:  Pesticides e.g. DDT are synthetic estrogens and act in the similar way.

E. Lack of Sufficient Intake of Fibre in Regular Diet:

  1. Fibres are less energy dense foods.
  2. Fibres forms a bulk inside our digestive system by absorbing water and gives a feeling of fullness with very little quantity.
  3. Fibre slows down the digestive process and decreases absorption of harmful components from food such as fructose. Thus Less chance of fructose to fat conversion inside our body.
  4. Fibre is a food for the helpful bacteria inside our intestine. These bacteria use fibre as their food by fermenting them. The Products of fermentation thus formed send signal to our brain causing a feeling of satiety.

   Lack of fibrous food can put us at the risk of obesity.

List of High fibre food:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cucumber
  3. Carrot
  4. Green leafy vegetables.
  5. Amaranth
  6. Dried figs
  7. oats/oat meal
  8. Barley
  9. Fruits like Apple, banana, Strawberry, fig etc.

F. Higher Intake of Vegetable Oil:

Excess intake of vegetable oil in preparation of food can make one prone to obesity. Most of the cooking oils are rich in Omega-6 fats while having very little or no omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 are both essential fats. But excess of Omega-6 without sufficient amount of Omega-3 in diet is very risky from health point of view.

Omega-6 leads to fat deposition in our body. Omega-3 has a protective effect on this but lack of it makes us susceptible to the obesity.

Role of Gut Bacteria In Obesity: 

Gut bacteria are of two types

  1. Firmicutes- Harmful gut bacterias
  2. Bacteroidetes- helpful Gut bacterias

Harmful gut bacterias increase our craving for harmful substances like sugar/ fats thus increases our chances of putting on weight.
But helpful bacteria ferment the fibres we eat and produce certain chemicals which act on our brain and produces satiety. Thus we tend to eat less and does not gain weight.
Probiotic and prebiotic food intake along with high fibre diet promote the growth of helpful bacteria inside our intestine and reduces the chances of us getting obese.

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