The causes of obesity are more complex than we think
Did you know that in 2021, 39% of adults worldwide were overweight? Of these, 13% were facing morbid obesity.
A dangerous misconception in the world of medicine and nutrition is that patients who experience these problems simply have a lack of willpower. Not only does this misconception not help in treating obesity, it can also contribute to a stigma against people struggling with obesity.
Find out here what the latest studies say about the causes of obesity, as well as what lifestyle changes can make the road to treating it easier.
What is obesity?
WHO (World Health Organization) defines overweight and obesity according to body mass index (BMI):
- A BMI greater than 25 means overweight
- A BMI greater than 30 means obesity
It should be noted that the BMI is not an exact indicator, but rather a guide to estimate the individual’s health.
What are the risks of obesity?
An increased BMI is a risk factor for many conditions such as:
- cardiovascular diseases
What are the causes of obesity and binge eating?
In recent years, doctors have witnessed an increase in obesity or binge-eating problems.
Causes of obesity and compulsive eating appear to be much more complex than generally believed:
Food with a high energy content (especially those high in fat or sugar) stimulates the part of the brain that anticipates rewards. When this sense of anticipation is stimulated day by day, we can face dangerous habits such as excessive craving and overeating.
Binge eating has even been compared to a drug addiction, stimulating similar areas in the brain. Just like curing drug addiction is a long and difficult process, we can also expect obesity or binge eating to not have a simple, straight-forward solution.
NEW! The causes of obesity can be found in the brain – here’s how:
In obese people, there is a so-called hypersensitivity of the neural system which anticipates rewards. This hypersensitivity is closely related to excessive cravings for certain foods. Also, a low sensitivity of the neural inhibition system was also discovered in obese people.
This simply means that an obese person will have a stronger craving for certain foods, and at the same time will have a lower ability to resist this craving.
A new study from the University of Pennsylvania also showed that there is a disruption of the connection between the dorsolateral hippocampus (dlHPC) and the lateral hypothalamus (LH) in overweight or morbidly obese individuals.
- Dorsolateral hippocampus – processes memory
- Lateral hypothalamus – keeps the body in a state of internal balance called homeostasis
This disruption of neural connection is directly proportional to body mass index – the higher it is, the more impaired the connection.
What does this study mean for treating obesity?
Lead study author Casey Halpern, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery, said:
“These findings highlight that the brains of some individuals may be fundamentally different in regions that increase the risk of obesity. The hippocampus has never been targeted to treat obesity or the eating disorders that can sometimes cause obesity. We hope to be able to use this research both to identify people who are likely to develop obesity later in life, and to develop new therapies – both invasive and non-invasive – to help improve the function of this essential circuit that appears to go awry in obese patients.”
So, while this means that treating obesity is not as simple as the general public thinks, the fact that we now know the cause may lead to innovative treatments for the condition.
It is important to know the causes and risks of overweight and obesity. It is not easy to treat these problems, but adopting a healthier lifestyle,rich in nutritious food and regular exercise is an essential step.
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