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 due to our overeating or our reluctance to exercise due to laziness?
There are no straightforward answers to all these questions.
It is true that too much food intake with very little or no exercise creates extra stores of energy in the form of fats and contributes to weight gain. But this is not the only reason. It is not how much we eat, but it 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. To understand this, let’s see two examples:
- Fructose (Type of Sugar): When we eat cannot be broken down entirely by the body; most of it is converted into fat and stored.
- Glucose (Type of Sugar): When we eat can be easily broken down and immediately utilized by our body rather than converting it into fats and storing.
Here both are the examples of Sugar and give the same amount of calories. But when we eat fructose we are accumulating significantly high amount of fats (Increased risk of obesity) as compared to glucose; thus it is not only how much we eat, but also what we eat matters.
DIETARY CAUSES OF OBESITY
Wrong diet and lifestyle-related choices can put oneself at the risk of obesity and related health issues.
- A. Excess Intake of Junk Food:
Who does not like to eat Junk food? But it’s calorie content is very high. It is an energy-dense food with negligible nutritive value. Junk food contains a high amount of Trans-fats, Sugar [Fructose] and Salt.
Junk food is harmful to us because,
- It Causes Food Addiction. The high amounts of Sugar and Salt in the food stimulates the Reward Centre in our brain, which gives us a feeling of happiness. When this happens repeatedly, our brain starts craving for this kind of stimulation. Hence we get addicted to eating Junk food.
- Junk food contains a significant amount of Sugar. This Sugar has equal amounts of fructose and glucose in it. The fructose gets converted to fat, which gets stored in the body, causing weight gain.
- 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:
- Hot Dogs
- Batata Wada
- Fried wafers and other similar products
- Cakes and cookies
- 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 include any food which is canned, Boxed or packed, i.e. ready to eat foodstuffs.
We identify different tastes with the help of our taste buds. More often than not, the high quantities of Sugar and Salt trick our taste buds by not giving any single clear taste to the food. That is why we end up eating more than necessary.
The examples of processed food are:
- Ready to eat soups and meals
- Sauces and Ketchup
- Canned and frozen vegetables
- Breakfast cereals
- Processed cheese
- Frozen meals
- Fruit juices
- 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 more harmful as it has a significantly high concentration of fructose than regular Sugar.
We all 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:
- Canned fruit juices
- Soft Drinks
- Energy Drinks
- D. Intake of Dietary Obesogens:
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 act as an endocrine disruptor, i.e. They tend to modify. Our genes and make fat cells to store more amount of fat. It results in excess weight gain.
List of foods rich in phytoestrogens:
- Soya bean
- Soya sauce
- Soya milk
- Soya Yoghurt
b) Pesticides: Pesticides, e.g. DDT, are synthetic estrogens and act similarly.
- E. Lack of Sufficient Intake of Fibre in Regular Diet:
- Fibres are less energy-dense foods.
- Fibres absorb water and form a bulk inside our digestive system. It gives a feeling of fullness.
- Fibres slow down the digestive process, which decreases the absorption of harmful components of food such as fructose. Thus; reducing the chance of fructose getting converted to the fats in our body.
- Fibre is a source of food for the helpful bacteria inside our intestine. These bacteria ferment the fibre. The Products of fermentation thus formed send signals to our brain, to give a feeling of satiety.
Lack of fibrous food can put us at the risk of obesity.
List of High fibre food:
- Green leafy vegetables.
- Dried figs
- Fruits like Apple, Banana, Strawberry, fig etc.
- F. Higher Intake of Vegetable Oil:
Excess use of vegetable oil in the cooking can make one prone to obesity. Most of the cooking oils are rich in Omega-6 fats with 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 the diet is harmful to our Health.
Omega-6 leads to fat deposition in our body. Omega-3 has a protective effect against it, but insufficiency or its absence makes us susceptible to obesity.
ROLE OF GUT BACTERIA IN OBESITY:
Gut bacteria are of two types
- Firmicutes– Harmful gut bacterias
- Bacteroidetes– Helpful Gut bacterias
- More number of harmful gut bacterias in our intestines, increase our craving for substances like sugar/ fats, which increases our chances of putting on weight.
- The helpful gut bacteria when present in sufficient quantity ferment the fibres we eat to produce certain chemicals which act on our brain to impart a feeling of 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.