Is Obesity a Disease?


The usual reason given for people getting fat is that they eat too much and or exercise too little. That says one thing if I remember from my ‘O’Level Physics. The amount of energy you put into a system minus the energy you take out has to be stored somewhere i.e. FAT! This formulae true though it is does not entirely explain obesity since some people seem to eat more than fat people and exercise no more than these same fat people, and yet they are not FAT! Why? Other factors must come into play. I have listed below some ideas which people have proposed to explain why fat people become fat:

1. It is thought that some people are destined to gain weight because they have inherited “FAT GENES” from their parents. There can be no doubt that people vary in their genetic makeup and some people are inclined because of genetic reasons to become tall, small, bald or fat. It is known, for that height is controlled by a number of different genes. Nevertheless, height is affected also by diet. Fat people tend to come from fat families. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are fat for genetic reasons. They could have learned the McDonalds behaviour, eating habits, from their parents when they were growing up. Because of studies with identical twins separated at birth  there is, indeed, a strong genetic component to body weight. This is not to say that someone constructed genetically is doomed to becoming fat.


I read a story from google that a lady in her mid- forties who should have been fat, but wasn’t. She had two brothers, each of who weighed over 140kg, and she had a grown child who weighed over 120kg. It was clear she had whatever genes it took to get fat. She was asked one day, “How come you’re not fat?” She explained that she thought it had to do with the fact that she ran for an hour and a half every day before she went to the gym.

2. Diet and the law of thermodynamics. The amount of energy that goes into a machine (the human body) has to balance the amount that goes out or the extra energy that goes in (food) has to be stored somehow FAT! So for everyone, no matter what that person’s genetic MAKE UP, either lowering the food intake or increasing the energy output (exercise) will lower the energy stored as fat. Eating less or exercising more and more will cause weight loss. High caloric foods seem to be inherently more attractive than other foods for reasons that probably have to do with our survival instincts dating back in history.

Some examples: Chinese who lived in China survived on a relatively calorie poor diet and were, for the most part, thin and healthy. Their children, once they came to this country and began eating like the rest of the Americans, became fat in higher numbers and began developing all those illnesses associated with obesity.

There is an Indian tribe that lives in  part of the West and has lived there for many generations. (Apparently their land was so unproductive; none of the other tribes were inclined to go to war to evict them.) They survived very well on a very low-calorie diet. When the white men came bringing their accustomed diet with them, the Indians became fat. Now over 90% of them are very fat and approximately the same number suffer from diabetes. They had evolved over many generations to live on a sparse diet. Probably s similar to a majority of us who are not quite evolved enough to cope with our modern diet.

3. Exercise. A lack of exercise causes obesity; and we are getting better and better at not getting enough exercise. There are exceptions with more people running and playing sport than ever before but our population is rising. Television usually gets blamed. Before that there was radio.

Over the long run, physical activity has an effect on maintaining proper weight that is at least as important as a proper diet.

4. Improper eating habits, learned while growing up, are thought to contribute to excessive weight gain over the course of a life time.

Finishing eating everything on your plate used to be considered good; now it is considered bad. You should stop eating when you are no longer hungry. Do not eat that last potato just because it is sitting there on your plate. It is often recommended to dieters that they get in the habit of purposely leaving some food uneaten on their plates. OR THE NEW EXERCISE “PUSH IT AWAY”


5. Another reason given for gaining weight is too much TV. The amount of time children watch television has been tied with weight gain. Possibly the effect is through a lack of exercise! Someone sitting inert on a couch is not outside playing ball. Or, perhaps, the food commercials on television that are designed to make people hungry actually do make them hungry.

4. Lack of sleep. People who sleep less eat more. Maybe they have nothing better to do. Maybe there are chemical changes that take place in the brain to compensate for inadequate sleep.

5. Certain drugs. Some of the anti-depressants, for example, cause weight gain.

6. Poverty correlates with obesity. Processed foods are more fattening.

7. Certain hormones. The usual “glandular conditions” are to effect obesity these include low thyroid and high cortisone levels. To what I have read these conditions on weight are minor and inconsistent.

8. The bacteria that live in the intestine. There are a great many human cells in the body but ten times that many bacteria take up residence in each of us, particularly in our intestines. These groups of bacteria vary from one person to the next. They help us to digest our food, and some are more efficient at that task than others. Therefore, some people, given the same amount of food, absorb more calories than others. So, it is true that a particular person can eat very little, less than other people, and still gain weight.

A study was conducted in which a number of people ate the same number of calories and exercised to the same extent; yet there was a perceptible difference in the change of weight each person experienced! There are only three possible reasons why this could happen, for some reason, some people are better at absorbing the calories from their food than others, perhaps because of those bacteria which assist digestion. Secondly, some people are more active when they are resting (not exercising) than others. Probably both of these explanations are true. The third reason, an innate difference in metabolism, may result in a somewhat higher body temperature; but the mechanism of this higher metabolism may still come down to moving t throughout the day more than the other people.

9. Bacteria affects weight in a second way: they seem to affect the hormones that the stomach secretes to regulate weight. A common cold virus, adenovirus-36, has been linked to obesity, perhaps because it affects the number of fat cells in the body.

10. The greater availability of food. Food becoming cheaper. The amount of sugar in our food.

11. Lifestyle. It is said for example that men gain weight after their first year of marriage.

Obesity has been linked to stress, not enough protein in the diet, too much fat in the diet, too much carbohydrate in the diet, an overly warm house, too much light (not enough light causes depression) and pollution etc.

It is evident that there are many causes of obesity. They overlap with each other. What matters I think, is the fact that excessive weight is not simply a failure of will power. It is not a moral failing. Dieting has to be approached in a practical way and not with finger wagging. But I still find it hard to find why it is now classed as a “DISEASE”.