As a Nutrition major, I have always wondered, Why is it that in the last few decades, people around the world have been increasing in weight, especially in America? From 1990 to 2018, American obesity has grown from being 11% of the population to 35% (The State of Obesity). Why do some people have such a hard time losing weight, while others have to work really hard to even gain a few pounds?
So, what exactly is obesity? Obesity is defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30, and is considered a chronic disease that increases the risk of a variety of health conditions. This includes, but is not limited to: insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, gallstones, stroke, heart attack, osteoarthritis, and even cancer (Balentine)..
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The location of fat on the body can increase these risks; generally, more abdominal fat means a higher risk. Storing fat in the abdomen is known as an apple shape, while storing fat in the hips and legs is a pear shape. The waist to hip ratio, which is found by dividing the measurement of the smallest part of your waist by that of widest part of your hips, is used to assess the increased risk of obesity related diseases. If the ratio is greater than or equal to 0.8 for women or 1.0 for men, their risk for obesity related diseases is elevated (Balentine).
In order to understand this obesity epidemic, we must first understand what causes obesity in the first place. Although there is definitely an influence from people’s personal actions, it turns out obesity is not purely a consequence of an individual’s choices; there are genetically predetermined factors that impact one’s likelihood of gaining weight.
One study used identical twins to test if genetics play a role in one’s weight and fat distribution. Twelve pairs of twins were given a one thousand calorie a day surplus over the course of one hundred days for six days per week. It turns out each twin’s weight gain and fat distribution was similar within pairs, but varied between the twelve different sets (Bouchard). These findings are very significant, because they demonstrate just how much one’s body composition, location of fat distribution, and metabolic rate can vary based on genetics.
One’s ethnicity, gender, hormone levels, and childhood weight, all of which are influenced by genetics, play a role in the likelihood of becoming obese. African Americans and Hispanics, women especially, have a tendency to put on more weight earlier in life; this is most likely a result of differences among cultures relating to food. People who are overweight in their 20s have a higher chance of becoming obese in their late 30s. Generally, the earlier the person is overweight in their life,
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