What is Obesity?

Obesity is a disease caused from biological, environmental, physical, and behavioral factors.

Biological factors that contribute to obesity include, but are not limited to, neuronal and hormonal communication between the brain, gut, and adipose tissue.  Genes may also have an influence on one’s susceptibility to obesity. Research has found 140 genetic regions associated with obesity, and numerous gene mutations related to appetite control in severely obese persons. Although rare, syndromic and endocrine causes of obesity include Prader-Willi, Bardet-Biedl, and Cohen syndromes as well as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and pseudohypoparathyroidism.

It is also believed that there is a link between the gut microbiome and obesity. Both animal and human studies have found that different concentrations of bacterium types are found in lean bodies compared to obese bodies.

As mentioned previously, adipose tissue plays a large role in hormone regulation, including leptin which affects appetite. A surplus of adipose tissue may lead to dysfunction of these hormone processes and increased secretion of inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, an excess of adipose tissue makes an even greater contribution to biological obese factors. Two commonly known complications of obesity include Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease.

Not every person who is overweight or obese will have associated complications or co-morbidities. However, this is not a reason to forego weight loss efforts. It is found that a 5-10% reduction in weight is correlated to reduced hypertension, improved glycemic control, and better serum lipid panels.

Bottom line – obesity is not just an imbalance of calories consumed versus energy expended. Working with a professional who is educated in the complexities of obesity as a disease not only reduces weight bias, but can also increase your chance of successful weight loss.

Reference: Lau DCW, Wharton S. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: The Science of Obesity. Available from: https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/science. Accessed June 7, 2021. 

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