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Understanding Obesity as a Complex Disease

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The obesity epidemic in the US is quickly growing worse. STAT News reports that only 12% of Americans lived with the disease 60 years ago, while more than 40% of people in the US are obese today. Due to the extreme rise in these numbers, health organizations now consider the obesity epidemic a public health crisis.

Unfortunately, obesity is caused by a combination of several factors, making it difficult to treat in many cases. Here’s what you need to know about obesity as a complex disease:

The Different Causes of Obesity

It’s a common assumption that obesity stems from just unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. However, many Americans struggle with it because of numerous other factors as well.

A study on the pathogenesis of obesity emphasizes that one’s appetite, physical activities, socioeconomic status, heredity, and environment are all factors that contribute to obesity. People can be born with a genetic susceptibility to fat accumulation, making it hard for them to control their weight. There are several other genes that can also contribute to one’s weight gain, which is why the disease may seem to run in some families.

The study also revealed that the behavior of people can change due to obesogenic marketing strategies to promote unhealthy beverages and food. Marketers know that high-fat and high-sugar junk foods can actually stimulate the brain’s reward centers. Thus, some advertisers promote these unhealthy foods as irresistible treats. As a result, people crave meat, candy, soda, and fast food more than healthy grains, vegetables, and fruit.

Finally, lifestyle factors also play a significant role in causing obesity. One may adopt their parents’ poor dietary and exercise habits and gain weight as they grow up. Many people also spend less time exercising or doing outdoor activities because they enjoy playing video games or using mobile devices more.

How to Treat the Different Causes of Obesity

People can target various causes of obesity through different health strategies. One of the most common health strategies recommended is regular physical activity. Exercising regularly can burn the calories you eat, creating a calorie deficit within your body and helping you lose weight. Your fitness journey can also help you manage your weight by increasing the calories you burn at rest through strength training exercises. This type of exercise can build muscle tissue, which burns more calories at rest compared to other types of tissue. Thus, exercise is usually considered a solution for obesity that’s caused by lifestyle factors and energy imbalance.

However, you may encounter slow progress with exercise, especially if you’re dealing with biological factors. As such, eligible people can use medical weight loss interventions to address the biological causes of obesity and enhance the effects of healthy lifestyle habits. These FDA-approved medications are highly effective for people with obesity, and the newer medications can even produce an average of 15% weight loss. These medications make it easier for people with genetic and hormonal issues to manage their weight over time.

On the other hand, people may also need behavioral therapy to address mental health conditions or poor habits that lead to obesity. These behavioral therapy interventions can help people with weight loss by teaching them how to adopt new lifestyle habits, such as portion control and self-monitoring. Part of this therapy also includes training for problem-solving and overcoming barriers to healthy lifestyles to help patients avoid falling back into old patterns. Research has shown that this can help people attain more than 5% weight loss in 24 months.

Obesity is a medical problem that can increase a person’s risk factors for several diseases. Thus, people need to understand and target the disease’s different causes to end the obesity epidemic in the US and lead healthier, longer lives.