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What is Obesity - Dr Nagi Safa

What is Obesity - Dr Nagi Safa

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Published by Dr Nagi Safa
Obesity is generally defined as a progressive and life-threatening disease with a strong genetic component. Presently, there are over 300 genes that have been identified that are associated with an increased risk for obesity. However, these are not 'bad' genes but ones that once enabled us to survive when food was not plentiful, such as during the winter months or when there were droughts or crop failures. Individuals not having these genes would not have survived during periods of famine and, therefore, their gene pool would not have been passed along to the next generation. So, our ancestors are the 'survivors' of yesteryear and, therefore, most of us today have these 'survival' genes, along with the increased risk for obesity.
Obesity is generally defined as a progressive and life-threatening disease with a strong genetic component. Presently, there are over 300 genes that have been identified that are associated with an increased risk for obesity. However, these are not 'bad' genes but ones that once enabled us to survive when food was not plentiful, such as during the winter months or when there were droughts or crop failures. Individuals not having these genes would not have survived during periods of famine and, therefore, their gene pool would not have been passed along to the next generation. So, our ancestors are the 'survivors' of yesteryear and, therefore, most of us today have these 'survival' genes, along with the increased risk for obesity.

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Published by: Dr Nagi Safa on Jun 05, 2013
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What is Obesity?
How Did I Get Like this?Obesity is generally defined as a progressive and life-threatening diseasewith a strong genetic component. Presently, there are over 300 genes thathave been identified that are associated with an increased risk for obesity.However, these are not 'bad' genes but ones that once enabled us to survivewhen food was not plentiful, such as during the winter months or when therewere droughts or crop failures. Individuals not having these genes would nothave survived during periods of famine and, therefore, their gene pool wouldnot have been passed along to the next generation. So, our ancestors arethe 'survivors' of yesteryear and, therefore, most of us today have these'survival' genes, along with the increased risk for obesity.Although there are numerous genes that are associated with obesity risk,genetics cannot explain why obesity has become such a serious problemover the last several decades. The gene pool, after all, would not havechanged in such a short period of time. What, then, is responsible for therampant increase in the severity and prevalence of obesity that is nowoccurring in the U.S. and throughout the industrialized world?Positive Energy BalanceWeight gain generally happens when an individual consumes more caloriesthan their body uses for energy. This is known as having a positive energybalance and occurs when we do not get enough physical exercise tocompensate either for an over consumption of food or for selection of foodsthat are high in calories and low in nutrients, such as candy, cakes, andchips, and fries.Our lifestyles today contribute to a positive energy balance. Most of us havesedentary jobs, spending most of our time at work in front of a computer orat a desk. Our children also have less opportunity for physical activity thandid young people of earlier societies. Few schools allow time for free play(recess) and most schools do not require that children attend physicaleducation classes on a daily basis. After work or school, children, as well asadults, spend 3 to 4 hours per day in front of the television, an event thatburns about as few calories as our body uses while sleeping. What leisuretime is not spent in front of the TV is often spent at the home computer,further reducing time available for physical activity.
 
In addition to low physical activity, a positive energy balance occurs whenwe eat or drink more calories than our body needs for normal functions.High calorie intake may result from a variety of causes including:consuming foods that contain sugar or processed grains that are not onlycalorie-dense but also cause a rapid rise in blood sugar along withproduction of a hormone, insulin, that can cause your body to accumulatemore fat,
 
Drinking sodas, fruit juices, and other beverages that are high insugar,
 
Eating meals at restaurants or fast-food facilities where food isgenerally high in calories and fat,
 
Purchasing super-size meals or eating at all-you-can eat food bars,
 
Frying foods in oil or preparing foods at home that are high in fat,sugar and processed grains, and
 
Failing to be mindful while eating, such as occurs when watching TV orperforming any other activity that may distract you from those signalsyour stomach provides when it is full.Low Intake of 'Obesity Prevention Foods'In addition to eating foods high in fat, sugar and processed grains, oursociety has also cut back dramatically on the consumption of foods that thathelp to protect the body from obesity. Fiber is important to help preventobesity and the American diet is lower in fiber than anywhere else in theworld. Fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and wholegrains and these foods help to prevent obesity in a variety of ways. First,foods high in fiber expand in the stomach, causing feelings of fullness.Secondly, these foods reduce the absorption of sugar and fat. Third, fiberfoods cause your body to burn more fat and, by lowering certain hormones,such as insulin, also reduce the capacity of your body to accumulate fat.Finally, fiber foods are generally high in vitamins and minerals needed foryour body to effectively convert the foods you eat to energy.Over the last several decades, our intake of dairy and other calcium-containing foods has also fallen considerably. In fact, Americans areobtaining from their diets less than 40% of the recommended daily calciumneeds. Dietary calcium, in turn, helps to prevent fat from being taken up andstored in fat tissue and also helps to reduce the number of fat cells availablefor fat accumulation. Dairy products are even more effective in theprevention of obesity than calcium alone because these products alsocontain other ingredients that help reduce the accumulation of body fat.
 
In addition to our not getting enough calcium in our diets or not eatingenough fiber, our diets are also very low in an essential fatty acid that canhelp to reduce the risk for obesity. This essential fatty acid is known asomega 3 and used to be readily available in eggs, milk, and meat prior toour more recent practice of grain-feeding beef, pork, fish and foul for rapidgrowth. Deficiencies in omega 3 can cause weight gain by:1.
 
Increasing the uptake of fat into fat storage depots2.
 
Altering certain brain chemicals that cause food cravings3.
 
Enhancing production of lipids and insulin4.
 
Causing the body to handle stress through activation of a pathway thatcan also cause fat accumulation and food cravingsFoods available today that remain high in omega 3 include salmon, herring,anchovies, and various other sea foods, caught but not grain-fed. Omega 3is also high in breast milk and may one of the reasons why studies find thatchildren who were breast fed are less likely to gain weight than those whowere not.Obesity as a Cause for ObesityAs is apparent from the above discussion, changes in the amount and kind of food that we now eat, along with the way that food is grown or processed,has contributed to the rise in obesity prevalence over recent years. But, didyou know that obesity is also a cause for obesity? With weight gain, thereare a number of changes that occur in your body that increase the capacityof your body to store fat. In other words, more of the food that you eatturns into body fat. Furthermore, these changes happen in order to protectyour body from the toxic effects that fat can have on your heart, liver,muscle, and all other parts of your body.Among all the tissues of your body, only adipose (fat) tissue is designed totake up and store high amounts of fat But with weight gain, fat spills overinto other tissues, like the liver and heart and cells along the blood vesselsand muscle to cause serious complications and disease including heartdisease, liver disease and elevated lipids, insulin resistance, diabetes,hypertension and much more. In order to protect non-adipose tissue fromthe toxic effects of fat, the body increases its capacity for fat storage inadipose tissue, increasing fat cell size and numbers and reducing thebreakdown of stored fat. In addition, there is a reduction in the uptake anduse fat by non-adipose tissues, such as the muscle, making more fatavailable for storage.

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