Understanding Obesity

ObesityThe mechanism for excessive weight gain is clear: more calories consumed than the body burns and excess calories are stored as fat (adipose) tissue. However, the exact cause is not as clear and likely arises from a complex combination of factors. Genetic factors significantly influence how the body regulates the appetite and the rate at which it turns food into energy (metabolic rate). Studies of adoptees confirm this relationship- the majority of adoptees followed a pattern of weight gain that more closely resembled that of their birth parents than that of their adoptive parents. A genetic predisposition to weight gain, however, does not automatically mean that a person will be obese. Eating habits and patterns of physical activity also play a significant role in the amount of weight a person gains.

While still an ongoing area of debate/inquiry within the medical community, some recent studies indicated that the amount of fat in a person’s diet may have a greater impact on weight than the number of calories it contains. Carbohydrates like cereals, breads, fruits, and vegetables and protein (fish, lean meat, turkey breast, skim milk) are converted to fuel almost as soon as they are consumed. Most fat calories are immediately stored in fat cells, which add to the body’s weight and girth as they expand and multiply. A sedentary lifestyle also plays a role in weight gain.

In childhood, excess calories are converted into new fat cells (hyperplastic obesity), while excess calories consumed in adulthood only serve to expand existing fat cells (hypertrophic obesity). Since diet and exercising can only REDUCE the size of fat cells, not eliminate them, persons who were obese as children can have great difficulty in losing weight, since they may have up to 5 times as many fat cells as someone who became overweight as an adult.

Obesity can also be a side effect of certain disorders and conditions including:

  • Cushing’s Syndrome a disorder involving the excessive release of the hormone cortisol
  • Hypothyroidism, a condition caused by an underactive thyroid gland
  • Neurologic disturbances, such as damage to the hypothalamus, a structure located deep within the brain that helps regulate appetite
  • Consumption of such drugs such as steroids, antipsychotic medications, or antidepressants

The major symptoms of obesity are excessive weight gain and the presence of large amounts of fatty tissue. Obesity can also give rise to several secondary conditions including:

  • Arthritis and other orthopedic problems such as lower back pain
  • Hernias
  • Heartburn
  • Adult-onset asthma
  • Gum disease
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Gallstones
  • High blood pressure
  • Menstrual irregularities or cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Decreased fertility, and pregnancy complications
  • Shortness of breath hat can be incapacitating
  • Sleep apnea and sleeping disorders
  • Skin disorders form the bacterial breakdown of sweat and cellular material in the thick folds of skin or from increased friction between folds
  • Type II Diabetes (leading cause of limb loss and blindness)
  • Emotional and social problems

For appointments please contact our Bariatric Coordinator, Nita Foster
at 609-893-1200 ext. 4727 or email patient inquiries to FosterN@deborah.org.