Causes of Obesity

There are many environmental, social, physiological & behavioural reasons why people can be overweight & obese.  The most basic reason however, is that the energy balance between what an individual eats (the energy in) & how that energy is used (the energy out) is uneven leading to excess energy being stored in the body as fat.

Because of this energy balance principle, people who eat a high-fat, high-energy diet & do not exercise will almost certainly gain weight.  There are also a number of other reasons why some people gain excess weight more quickly than others. 

These include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body weight
  • Food preference
  • Medications
  • Hereditary factors/genetics
  • Ethnicity
  • Socio-economic factors/status
  • Psychological factors

Obesity is more common in lower socio-economic groups, in rural & remote populations, in certain ethnic groups, & in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.

Causes of Obesity

There are many health risks involved with being overweight or obese.

The physical health problems can range from contribute to a range of life-threatening illnessincluding:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Dislipidaemia
  • Some types of cancers

There is a number of health as well as social & psychological consequences associated with being overweight or obese.

Psychosocial consequences include:

  • Social bias
  • Discrimination
  • Low self-esteem
  • Body shape dissatisfaction
  • Eating disorders, e.g. binge-eating disorder
  • Isolation
  • Depression and Anxiety

It is important then to prevent excess weight gain, not just for general good health & wellbeing but in order to avoid the more serious problems that obesity can bring about.  Fortunately losing excess weight can often slow or reverse many of these disorders.

References – The Association for the Study of Obesity.
NSW Centre for Public Health Nutrition. State of Food and Nutrition in NSW Series: Report on the Weight Status of NSW: 2003. Sydney: NSW Department of Health, 2003.
National Health and Medical Research Council. Acting on Australia’s Weight: A Strategic Plan for the Prevention of Overweight and Obesity. Canberra: AGPS, 1997.

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