Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #1137

How Did We Get All This Obesity?

Factors Driving Obesity UpOne of the most common questions about obesity is: how did we get all this obesity? And the answer is seldom satisfying because it’s so complicated and so much remains unknown. Yesterday at the 2015 Blackburn Obesity Course in Boston, Lee Kaplan defied that generalization and presented a compelling distillation of what is known about the major factors responsible for driving the rate of obesity up.

Kaplan’s presentation was a rather complete summary of current knowledge related to treating obesity. His description of the factors driving obesity rates up was a small part of what he covered. But it stood out for providing exceptional clarity about an important question.

The regulation of body weight is remarkably efficient and constant across time as obesity prevalence has risen. What has changed is four factors in our environment that drive this process to maintain increasingly higher levels of weight. Yes, other things have changed, but these factors seem most important in driving obesity trends.

The food supply is likely the biggest driver of weight gain across the population. The problem is not in so much the number of calories, but the qualities of the food we eat and the effect that it has on nerve signals between the gut and the brain responsible for regulating weight.

Less physical activity is another important driver. The reduction in calories we burn because of inactivity is not as important as the effect of inactivity on the health of our muscles. Healthy muscles play an important role in nerve signals that regulate weight.

Stress and distress have important effects on weight regulation that drives weight gain. Stressors have a direct effect of promoting inflammation in parts of the brain responsible for regulating weight.

Drugs that cause weight gain may account for 10% of the upward trend in obesity rates. Treatments for diabetes, blood pressure, depression, and other conditions can directly cause weight gain that doctors often overlook.

Certainly, much work remains to provide deeper understanding of these factors that have driven obesity rates up. But it’s not a total mystery and solid research continues to build our evidence base. From such evidence will come real solutions.

Click here and here to read more about factors driving obesity rates.

Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #1137, illustration © Ape Lad / flickr

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3 Responses to “How Did We Get All This Obesity?”

  1. June 19, 2015 at 7:13 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Reductions in cigarette smoking thought to contribute, too.

    Cool piece! Thank you!


    • June 19, 2015 at 7:37 am, Ted said:

      Good point, Joe. You are correct, as usual! Thanks.

  2. June 20, 2015 at 11:03 pm, Vera Tarman said:

    Food addiction is a main dynamic that has been unacknowledged for the most part.

    Please look at my book ‘food junkies the truth about food addiction’ – on
    It really does add a major piece outside of the obesity model
    Tx for your post!