- Genetics. Genetics play some role in obesity, but people are too quick to blame everything on genes these days. Between 1980 and 2000, obesity rates doubled. If genetics were the primary or sole cause of this increase, it would have taken longer for obesity rates to have doubled. This increase took place too quickly for genetic factors to be responsible, which is to say that the role that genetics plays in obesity is small.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Americans live a less physically demanding life. Physical inactivity is at a point that it is the fourth leading cause of death (World Health Organization). Many Americans are not getting the exercise they need (CDC, 2012, Table 67). Technological development has allowed for less physically demanding activities, both at work and at home. We also watch more television, which is another sedentary activity that increases probability of obesity (Harvard School of Public Health).
- Advertising, lack of healthy food, and a"toxic food environment." The idea here is that one's environment corrodes one's ability to make food choices, whether it's at work, home, or at school. Food marketing is blamed for obesity, but there is no discernible link between advertising exposure and body weight (Andreyeva et al, 2011). Additionally, some claim that obesity is an issue because there is a lack of access to healthy food, or what some would call a "food desert." According to the USDA (2012, p. 1), approximately 3.6% of Americans deal with both food deserts and income issues. If there is anything problematic with the "toxic food environment," it's an issue of convenience, not access.
- Smoking. When people quit smoking, food tastes and smells better, which makes it all the more tempting to eat. Also, nicotine allows for a slightly greater metabolism. Although there is some weight gain while quitting smoking, it cannot be considered a major contributor to obesity (Chiolero et al, 2008).
- Sleep deprivation. There is an increasing amount of research showing a correlation between a lack of sleep and obesity. As the Harvard School of Public Health outlines, less sleep means more opportunities to eat, as well as a decrease in physical activity. A good amount of sleep also provides a proper hormonal balance that does not make you too hungry or too full.
Monday, January 13, 2014
What Is Causing the Growing Problem of Obesity?
Obesity is a massive problem. On a worldwide level, it is estimated that about one in three people are obese. Nearly seven in ten people in America are overweight. Being overweight adds additional economic burdens, as I pointed out a few years back. Before creating solutions to the problem, you need to know what the root causes of the problem are. That might be a self-evident assertion, but that point can be easily forgotten when good politics get in the way of good policy. My friend made me aware of an article from the think-tank Rand Corporation entitled Five Myths About Obesity. Diane Cohen, who authored the piece, concluded that "what is really needed is regulation, for example, limits on marketing that caters to our addiction to sugar and fat," which is what particularly piqued my interest. Is obesity really a disease, and we thus lack the self-control to make our own decisions regarding our health? Does the government need to step in and decide what forms of food are acceptable so we can win the War on Obesity? To figure out how to deal with obesity, let's go through the list of some of the possible causes of obesity.