Rise of obesity: 8 causes of gaining weight

2.8 million people die each year from obese related diseases world wide and the numbers are steadily rising. Once only common in richer countries, obesity is now rising in lower income countries. Obesity is known to cause chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart attack or cancers such as colon cancer.

How to establish that you are over weight?

The body mass index (BMI) is a tool that helps doctors determine in which health range relating body weight you are. It’s a simple calculation: your weight in kilograms divided by your height in square meters (kg/m2).

Anyone who has a BMI result higher then 25 is termed to be over weight. Anyone who is higher than 30 is obese. The healthy weight range is a BMI result of 18.5 to 24.99.

1. Gaining weight due to low metabolism

Your body automatically regulates the energy intake (food) and the energy expenditure (metabolism) to keep you within a healthy weight range.

This natural balance can easily be disrupted by eating highly inflammatory foods such fat. A high increase of fat cells causes an imbalance of our hormones which slows down your metabolism and leads to weight gain.

Overweight and obese people also exercise much less. They feel tiered, fatigued and have overall less energy. As exercise is another form of energy expenditure it helps to increase your metabolism and reduce weight.

2. Nutrient deficiencies and obesity

There are two causes for nutrient deficiencies in people. The first cause is genetic. In this case the person’s body is unable to absorb and process the nutrients they eat. The second cause is that most people don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables per day. This lack of whole food intake causes nutrient deficiencies.

In both cases the outcome is the same: weight gain. You gain weight because your body has been programmed to ask for more food every time the nutrient levels are insufficient. This causes you to feel hungry more often and you eat more.

Most people also chose unhealthy, nutritionally barren foods every time they eat. This causes new hunger shortly after you ate. The result is weight gain as you eat much more calories than you actually need.

3. Acid-Alkaline imbalances cause weight gain

Our body works hard to keep our acidic to alkaline levels (Ph) in balance. The healthy Ph range in our blood is measured at 7.4. Alkaline foods are rich in potassium and are found in fruit and vegetables. Acidic foods are meat, eggs, dairy, sugar and highly refined carbs like white flour.

Obese people tend to eat highly processed and acidic foods which turns their bodies acidic. Our biochemical systems work very poorly and insufficient in acidic states. This slows down our metabolism and leads to weight gain. Therefore, it is important to keep your body alkaline at all times by adding plenty of vegetables into your diet.

4. Weight gain due to nutritionally barren foods

The way fruit and vegetables are grown today has dramatically changed. Foods are sprayed with pesticides, grown for their looks, picked before they are ripe and frozen for later use. The outcome are apples with 41% less vitamin A in comparison to 50 years ago.

In general people don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. Now we are supposed to eat twice as much to receive the same nutrients as our grandparents did to avoid weight gain and malnutrition. Low vitamin and mineral levels also slow down your metabolism and cause fatigue.

5. Higher food intake due to poor eating habits

We don’t have enough time in today’s fast paced society to sit and eat at the dinner table. In the morning we eat on the “go”, during lunch we eat in front of the computer and for dinner we eat in front of the TV to relax. We also don’t sit down for our main meals anymore. We prefer to graze on sugary or fatty snacks throughout the day instead.

Research shows that “mindless eating” leads to a higher food intake. Our brain sends the signal of “feeling full” much later which results in higher calorie intake per meal.

6. Growth of portion sizes and related obesity

Our portion sizes have been increasing over the past decades. Thanks to the “up-sizing” of meals in fast food outlets and increase of packaged foods in grocery stores. If the portions are bigger so will be your calorie intake. Without balancing out the additional foods with exercise you will essentially gain weight.

The distribution of your macro nutrients fat, carbs and proteins on your plate is another problem. Most people tend eat foods that are higher in refined carbohydrates and fats and lower in proteins, minerals and vitamins. A healthy plate should consist of ½ vegetables, ¼ proteins and ¼ whole grain carbs.

7. Disfunction of appetite and hunger [leptin & ghrelin]

Appetite and hunger are regulated by our brain, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus sends signals, in form of hormones, to different body parts for different situations. When you eat fat the stomach the hormone leptin to the brain to switch off your appetite. Vice versa, when our stomach is empty it sends signals via the hormone ghrelin to tell the brain that we are hungry.

Eating the wrong foods continuously disrupts the balance of our hormones. The hypothalamus can be affected by high doses of sugar. When you drink one can of soda it reduces the hypothalamus function by up to 36 hours! During this time you won’t receive signals of appetite and satiety. You will be likely to eat more because your brain won’t tell you that you are full. As most people drink sugary drinks on a daily basis over long periods of time, the hypothalamus does not get the chance heal. Read more about soft drinks and sugar here!

8. Obesogens: The chemical hormone disruptors

Obesogens are external chemicals that are ingested via some foods. These chemicals disrupt our endocrine (hormonal) systems which in effect can lead to obesity. Obesogens are known to interrupt the balance of our fat metabolism, fat storage, energy balance and for changing our appetite and satiety center.

These chemicals are naturally found in soy and are manually injected as a hormone to animals, which we eat in turn. They are also found in food- and drink packaging, ingredients added in processed foods as well as pesticides sprayed on fruit and vegetables.

To minimize the exposure of these chemicals it is best to minimize foods with pesticides or have been packaged or canned. Other items are plastics for water and baby bottles or plastic containers to store food in. Best is to purchase plastic and cans that are “BPA-Free”.

Wrap up

The above are just a few causes of obesity as it is a very complex issue. However, it is safe to say that most causes are food related. Just by reducing processed and packaged foods and increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you can reduce your weight and become healthier.

For more detailed information check out the WHO website on the topic of obesity and weight gain.