Obesity is a primary preventable cause of mortality worldwide. Statistics of 195 countries indicate that in 2015, around 600 million adults (representing 12 percent) and 100 million children were obese. As a result, health professionals and authorities view the condition as the most pressing health issue of the 21st century. The condition is more common among women than men. Obesity refers to a situation where an individual has gained and accumulated excess body fat, which puts them at the risk of adverse health effects. A person is considered obese if their body weight is 20 percent or more higher than it is supposed to be. The ideal body weight is measured using a scale known as the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by using the individual's weight and height. Therefore, one is considered obese when their BMI measurement is over 30 kg/m2. Obesity is the worst state of weight as it increases the likelihood of diseases such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer, depression, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. The rapid rise in the cases of obesity in the USA is linked to inadequate or lack of physical activity, mental disorders, excessive food intake, and genetic susceptibility which shall be the focus of the essay. Obesity can be prevented and managed through personal choices, societal changes, lifestyle changes, exercise, balanced diet, surgery, and pharmacotherapy.
The Causes of Obesity in the USA
Physical Activity and Obesity
Physical exercise is essential to maintain balanced body weight. Studies have revealed that at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as walking has a tremendous contribution to maintaining the appropriate body weight through the burning of calories (Hancock, 2011). The burning of calories improve the cardiovascular and respiratory functions which limit the risk for developing chronic conditions. Unfortunately, Americans prefer a sedentary lifestyle which has led to obesity in children and adults. These cases have rapidly increased in the past three decades and have significantly affected the public health (Wiklund, 2016). Studies have shown that at least 80% of the adult Americans do not achieve the minimum recommended standards of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities as shown in the state of obesity, (2018). Also, approximately 45% of the adults are not adequately active to realize the health benefits, which is costing the American taxpayers around $117 billion each year to deal with conditions linked to physical inactivity as indicated in the state of obesity, (2018). American children are increasingly becoming obese which is reflected in their adulthood through lifestyle conditions such as diabetes which starts during adolescence as shown in Lobstein, Baur, & Uauy, (2004).
WHO statistics have raveled that despite the growing cases of obese children across the world, USA has the highest cases among children (McManus & Mellecker, 2012). The primary cause of this situation is the choice of games and other social activities for the children which are mostly sedentary. For instance, children prefer to stay indoors and play video games or watch movies with friends instead of running in the field. The situation has been worsened by the constant intake of junk food which has high-calorie volume and fats that are not burnt. Thus, the children accumulate an excess amount of energy unused and become obese. Physical activity plays a protective role in limiting excessive adiposity. A physical activity that is more than three times the rate of the metabolic activities is considered appropriate to maintain the right weigh (McManus & Mellecker, 2012). Similarly, People working in offices on jobs that encourage minimal physical movement is a risk factor for becoming obese.
Excessive Intake of Food Leads to Obesity
Studies on American population since the 1970s have revealed that the rapid increase of obesity cases is linked to increased consumption of energy (Oja & Titze, 2011). A study that involved more than 1350 and 950 adults and children respectively to determine the number of calories Americans burn revealed that they take more calories than needed by their body. When a person consumes more than required by the body, the unused is stored in the body as fats, which cumulatively is reflected in the weight of a person. In the study, both adults and children were found to be either obese or overweight based on their diet. For instance, the children consumed fuzzy drinks and French fries which contributed to around 350 calories in a day and adults who consumed a Hamburger which contributed about 500 calories. To burn such calories and balance the body fast for children and adults it was revealed that they need 150 minute for moderate and 75 minutes of intense physical activity each day (Oja & Titze, 2011). This was not achievable, and the study recommended that a reduction in the intake of calorie was the solution to the problem. This study confirmed that despite physical activity is an effective way to burn calories and promote optimum body weight; it would be more beneficial for the Americans to consider diets low in calories or at least take food according to their energy needs.
Additionally, in the European study above, when the researchers compared the European and the Americans population, they realized that the former was healthier than the later and the relationship was based on the quantity of food they took. The American population consumed more food than the European. This is evident that overeating in America is concerning and is a significant contributor to the unhealthy weight gains that are exhibited across all age brackets. Similar results were exhibited by a cross-sectional study that was conducted on a group of teenagers on the link between eating excess food and obesity (Rosenheck, 2008). The studies linked fast food to the increased calorie intake. It also revealed that this situation was promoted by parents who provide fast food for family meals and snacks. Thus, the excessive food intake could be linked to the choices of foods and quantity on the decision that parents make for their children. Parents who advocate for such eating trends are likely to consume junk foods, and the cycle of obesity continues to affect the current and future American generations.
The Link between Genetics and Obesity
Obesity is a complex condition which could be caused by interactions between the genetic makeup of a person and environmental factors. The study of genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics have revealed volumes of knowledge on how genes could contribute to the cases of obesity seen across the world (Walley, Blakemore, & Froguel, 2006). Hence, such studies (genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics) have established that overweight and obesity are conditions that tend to concentrate on families. Also, the studies have revealed that people from a family with a history of obesity are two to eight times higher at risk of becoming obese than a person from a family with no such history (Walley, Blakemore, & Froguel, 2006). Additionally, the heritability of obesity varies depending on the phenotype, but it is higher for those with the one linked to adipose tissue distribution and that of body fat or weight. Moreover, adiposity which is a factor influenced by heredity, affects body weight. A study conducted among European and African American youths in America revealed MC4R is associated with general visceral adiposity (Liu, Zhu, Lagou, Gutin, Barbeau, Treiber, & Snieder, 2010). Studies have revealed there are different types of obesity which include monogenic and polygenic obesity (Walley et al., 2006). Currently, studies have linked at least four genes to which include MC4R, BDNF, PCK1, and POMC to the two forms of obesity. In an American study among the Asian and Caucasian population, with obesity, finings revealed that they had the gene MC4R (Tang, Jin, Zhou, & Lu, 2017). When the MC4R undergoes mutation, there is a 150-loss of function coding which occurs at different loci which are associated with monogenic obesity (Choquet, & Meyre, 2011). Additionally, the SNP which is located 188kb downstream of the MC4R has been related to a modest increase in the risk for developing obesity. The SNP rs 17782313 near MC4R is a gene that contributes to polygenic obesity with are associated with food intake behavior or food intake regulation (Choquet, & Meyre, 2011). The American study mentioned above also revealed that SNP which is a variant of MCR4 is linked to excessive food intake that affects body weght and was found on the Caucasian and Asian individuals who took part in the study (Tang et al., Lu, 2017).
The Link between Mental Disorders and Obesity
The continuous rise in the prevalence of obesity and overweight in the USA have been associated with various mental disorder. For example surveys conducted in USA and Canada have confirmed the association between mood disorders such as depression with obesity (Simon, Von Korff, Saunders, Miglioretti, Crane, Van Belle, & Kessler, 2006). Also surveys in USA on sex differences in occurrence of obesity in connection with depression, indicated a positive connection in women and a negative or no connection in men. The highest prevalence was revealed by people with higher socio-economic status and the white ethnic group, followed by Hispanics, African American and the others covered the remaining proportion (Simon et al., 2006). Additionally, a USA study revealed that people with BM1 of 30 and above have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders. However, unlike in depression where women are the likely victims, in anxiety connection to obesity both men and women are equally represented proportion (Simon et al., 2006). Similarly, three cross-sectional studies on adult population in USA revealed an average odds ratio of 1.33 for depression and obesity (Rajan, & Menon, 2017). The same result was replicated in a longitudinal study that involved adolescent population with an odds ratio of 1:4 for developing depression in obesity and vice versa on the odd ratio of 1:7 for developing obesity in depression (Rajan, & Menon, 2017). This study was a confirmation of the bidirectional link between obesity and depression, and mental health with obesity in the USA.
The cases of obesity are rapidly increasing across America, affecting all age groups. Obesity is linked to various lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. This problem strains the government expenditure as each year a substantial amount is allocated to fight this problem. There are various cases of obesity which include inadequate or lack of physical activity which has been promoted by the sedentary lifestyle in America. Also, the genetic predisposing where genes such as SH2B1 and MC4R are associated with the occurrence of monogenic and polygenic obesity. Moreover, a mental disorder such as depression and personality disorders have been linked to obesity cases. Additionally, excessive food intake which is connected to unwanted calories in the body is associated with cases of obesity. Fortunately, obesity is a condition that can be prevented and people have to take personal initiative to be physically active, consume a balanced diet, and treat mental disorders among other considerations to control the occurrence and development of the problem.
Choquet, H., & Meyre, D. (2011). Genetics of obesity: what have we learned?. Current Genomics, 12(3), 169-179.
Hancock, H. (2011). The Benefits of Regular Walking for Health Well-being and the Environment.
Lobstein, T., Baur, L., & Uauy, R. (2004). Obesity in children and young people: a crisis in p...
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