reasons for obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom,
it is not simply a result of overeating. Research has shown that in
many cases a significant, underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetic.
Studies have demonstrated that once the problem is established, efforts
such as dieting and exercise programs have a limited ability to provide
effective long-term relief.
Science continues to search for answers. But until the disease is better
understood, the control of excess weight is something patients must
work at for their entire lives. That is why it is very important to
understand that all current medical interventions, including weight
loss surgery, should not be considered medical cures. Rather they are
attempts to reduce the effects of excessive weight and alleviate the
serious physical, emotional and social consequences of the disease.
The underlying causes of severe obesity are not known. There are many
factors that contribute to the development of obesity including genetic,
hereditary, environmental, metabolic and eating disorders. There are
also certain medical conditions that may result in obesity like intake
of steroids and hypothyroidism.
Numerous scientific studies have established that your genes play an
important role in your tendency to gain excess weight.
The body weight of adopted children shows no correlation with the body
weight of their adoptive parents, who feed them and teach them how to
eat. Their weight does have an 80 percent correlation with their genetic
parents, whom they have never met.
Identical twins, with the same genes, show a much higher similarity
of body weights than do fraternal twins, who have different genes.
Certain groups of people, such as the Pima Indian tribe in Arizona,
have a very high incidence of severe obesity. They also have significantly
higher rates of diabetes and heart disease than other ethnic groups.
We probably have a number of genes directly related to weight. Just
as some genes determine eye color or height, others affect our appetite,
our ability to feel full or satisfied, our metabolism, our fat-storing
ability, and even our natural activity levels.
Environmental and genetic factors are obviously closely intertwined.
If you have a genetic predisposition toward obesity, then the modern
American lifestyle and environment may make controlling weight more
Fast food, long days sitting at a desk, and suburban neighborhoods that
require cars all magnify hereditary factors such as metabolism and efficient
For those suffering from morbid obesity, anything less than a total
change in environment usually results in failure to reach and maintain
a healthy body weight.
We used to think of weight gain or loss as only a function of calories
ingested and then burned. Take in more calories than you burn, gain
weight; burn more calories than you ingest, lose weight. But now we
know the equation isn't that simple.
Obesity researchers now talk about a theory called the "set point,"
a sort of thermostat in the brain that makes people resistant to either
weight gain or loss. If you try to override the set point by drastically
cutting your calorie intake, your brain responds by lowering metabolism
and slowing activity. You then gain back any weight you lost.
Eating Disorders & Medical Conditions
Weight loss surgery is not a cure for eating disorders. And there are
medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that can also cause weight
gain. That's why it's important that you work with your doctor to make
sure you do not have a condition that should be treated with medication