What actually causes obesity?

What actually causes obesity?

We now know that obesity is not simply a cosmetic issue caused by a lack of self-control

In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the condition as a chronic progressive disease, and it is the leading cause of preventable death in Australia. But, if the behaviour is not the sole determinant of obesity, what other factors cause the condition? And what can be done about it?

Some of the factors that contribute to the development of obesity include:

  1. Your genes. Your genes play an important role in the way in which your metabolic processes work. In fact, obesity is a feature of more than 20 different genetic disorders. While children of obese parents are more likely to become obese than children of non-obese parents, it doesn’t mean that the condition is predetermined. Diet and lifestyle have a key role to play, but research shows that there are variants in genes that predispose some people to obesity.
  2. Psychological factors. For many people, psychological factors affect their relationship with food. Additionally, certain significant life events can trigger weight gain — these include pregnancy, menopause, periods of sleep deprivation, as well as experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
  3. Other medical conditions. There are a number of medical conditions that may lead to weight gain, including polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes an imbalance of the female reproductive hormones; hypothyroidism, which causes the thyroid gland to produce insufficient hormones; and Cushing syndrome, a condition in which excess cortisol is produced in the body. Other conditions that cause pain, and as a result may lead to inactivity, like osteoarthritis, can also lead to weight gain. There are also a number of medications that can cause weight gain, including oral hypoglycemics, hormonal therapy, steroids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, anti-hypertensives, and anti-epileptic medications.
  4. Appetite control. For most people, appetite can be very difficult to control because the biochemical pathways that regulate it are very powerful. Our feedback control systems carry complex messages about the body’s nutrient state from the gastrointestinal tract to the part of the brain that regulates appetite (known as the hypothalamus). Some research shows that people with obesity may have a defective feedback control system, which means that the hypothalamus does not function as it should. Instead, this part of the brain continues to stimulate feelings of hunger and food-seeking behaviour, even though the body has adequate energy reserves.

How can we help?

Overcoming obesity is a difficult challenge, and very few people with the condition experience long-term weight loss by making lifestyle changes alone. For this reason, surgery is often the most effective option when it comes to treating severe obesity. Gastric sleeve and gastric bypass surgery produce sustained weight loss of between 60 and 80 per cent of excess weight loss, with some patients even achieving up to 100 per cent weight loss. This sustained weight loss goes a long way in improving a lot of the health issues associated with obesity.
Besides gastric sleeve and gastric bypass surgery, we also offer gastric banding and the loop duodenal switch procedure (SADI). You can read about the details of these procedures and how they work here.

Of course, deciding to undergo surgery for obesity treatment is a big step. We recommend that you begin the journey by getting in touch with us to arrange a consultation. At your initial consultation, you’ll meet with Dr Jordaan and our team of nurses and other health professionals, who will be able to advise you on the best treatment option, depending on your specific needs. This is a good opportunity to raise any questions or concerns you might have and to thoroughly discuss each of the surgical options.