How is it that obesity rates are 10x higher than they were in the 1970s? We know obesity is directly correlated with one consuming more calories than they expend through physical activity. Simply put: are we just eating more french fries in lieu of going for a jog? As researchers continue to learn more about obesity, surprising facts continue to arise as they continue to conduct medical studies. Recently, researchers discovered five facts which provide more insight about obesity.
1. Seemingly Sneaky Pounds
Depending on the individual, common obesity occurs when people gain anywhere from 2-5 pounds per year over a span of 15-25 years. That means on the lowest end of the scale, a 30 year old with a normal weight can be 30 pounds overweight by the time they are 45! The ‘sneaky’ pounds are due to a combination of “obesogenic factors” which are defined as anything that promotes obesity. These include excessive food intake, lack of exercise, insufficient sleep, antipsychotic medications, late pregnancy, and environmental pollutants.
It is difficult to track the cause of this weight gain. Even if two people eat the same number of calories and perform the same amount of physical exercise, the calorie consumption and energy expenditure affects them differently.
2. Not All About Diet and Exercise
Researchers believe that a large number of genes contribute to the risk of obesity. 5% of extremely obese people develop the disease starting in childhood due to a genetic mutation in the melanocortin 4 receptor. This gene is responsible for signalling fullness to the brain. However, if someone carries a mutated version of this gene, they will experience lower levels of satiety and are more likely to eat larger quantities of food. The melanocortin 4 receptor is only a miniscule example. Research from the Monell Center found that over 6,000 genes, about 25% of the entire human genome, helps to determine an individual’s body weight.
Researchers from the Monell Center have for the first time attempted to count the number of genes that contribute to obesity and body weight.
Their findings suggest that over 6,000 genes -- about 25 percent of the genome -- help determine an individual's body weight.
3. Birth Defects
Approximately 50% of pregnant mothers in the US are overweight or obese when they have their first appointment during pregnany. Researchers have concluded the following statistics regarding pregnant women:
BMI over 35: 23% chance of birth defects
BMI over 40: 37% chance of birth defects
4. Passes from Mom to Baby
JAMA Pediatrics published a study explaining the “macrosomia phenomen,” which is defined as obese mothers giving birth to larger babies. Dr. Cuilin Zhang explains how this happens:
"Women who are obese at conception are more insulin resistant, which may lead to overnutrition of the fetus and overgrowth at birth."
5. Parents Pass It On
If a pregnant woman gains excessive weight especially within the first 20 weeks, this can cause genetic mutations in the genes that dictate insulin sensitivity. Fathers aren’t off the hook either - genetic mutations can be passed through sperm as well.
While obesity is generally believed to be the result of an individual’s diet and exercise habits, this research shows several other factors need to be taken into consideration.
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