The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide. In the past few decades, this unprecedented increase in obesity has spread across every age, gender and race. In the U.S. alone, the obesity levels have risen to as much as 68% and a similar trend is observed in other countries. In an attempt to understand the different causes of obesity, this article highlights a few major elements which have contributed to the rise in obesity at a global level.
The most significant societal and behavioral shift is observed in our eating habits where the idea of healthy eating has been heavily overshadowed by fast food culture. As highly calorie food has become more affordable and accessible, people are now habitual of fat-laden food items. The growing number of vending machines, fast food restaurants and the excessive use of frozen food items all point towards a mounting problem of disproportionate reliance on energy dense items. Instead of opting for healthier and natural options, people now prefer to spend less time on selecting or preparing their food. The large scale availability of highly palatable food has eventually forced people to increase their total caloric intake per day. In today’s time, grocery stores are packed with highly processed, packaged and non-perishable food items that occupy valuable shelf space. Natural and organic substances, on the other hand are not more costly. The increased marketing of these decidedly accessible, easy-to-cook/prepare and inexpensive food items has had a far more detrimental impact on our health than from what we originally assumed.
Increased Portion Sizes
Increased obesity rates are closely related to increased commercial food portion sizes. Commercially available fast food items are energy-dense foods which contribute to an imbalance in sustaining healthy body weight. The ingestion frequency of these food items along with their portion sizes suggests that people are unable to consume satisfying portions of their meals without consuming excessive energy. In addition, this also results in excessive consumption of sodium, fat and sugar.
With rapid advances in technology and innovation, the resultant decrease in physical activities is also a major lifestyle change. As compared to past decades, people today are less engaged in physical activities. In addition, with the absence of adequate physical education and awareness and less access to such activities, a sedentary lifestyle pattern has developed overtime. Much of recreational time is spend on watching television, playing video games or surfing the internet. While processes have become more sophisticated and efficient, the consequence has been an ultimate decline in calorie expenditure.
Drug Induced Weight Gain And Other Factors
Other than these primary factors responsible for weight gain, there are a few others which are contributing to the obesity epidemic. Use of certain common medications such as those for diabetes, hypertension, contraceptives and hormones, are all attributed to unhealthy weight gain. While research regarding drug induced weight gain is still at a premature stage, the hypothesis supporting the same has been verified by a number of studies and health experts.
Lack of sleep is also a contributing factor as it results in an increased appetite. Other than this, there are certain commercially produced endocrine disruptors which have an impact on the hormonal regulation, thus resulting in obesity. These disruptors are sometimes found in pesticides which are indirectly added to the food chain. For certain countries, such as the US, the increase in food supply has resulted in an increase in the total food intake. Obesity is caused by a multitude of factors which may include social, environmental, psychological and economic elements. There is a need to develop effective interventions so as to control the growth of these driving factors and to encourage health education and obesity awareness amongst individuals.