Saturday, May 15, 2010

More Facts About Obesity

As a continuation of my previous article, here we’ll continue exploring the facts about obesity. Race and ethnicity also plays a role in weight gain. American Indians, African Americans and Hispanic women are more likely to be overweight than white women. These races typically value thinness less than white Americans. They tend to have a more normalized view of what weight should be, not the distorted one that most white women have.

We now know that there is an actual science of satiety. Satiety is under the control of two relatively newly discovered hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin signals that the body has had enough food. It is kind of an off-switch. Leptin resistance can occur, however. That means that you’re producing leptin, your body is not using it effectively and that off-switch doesn’t do its job. There are studies that suggest that sleep deprivation may contribute to obesity. This is because leptin decreases with sleep deprivation. Getting those 8 to 10 hours of sleep everyday should be part of every weight loss strategy.

In our bodies we always have opposing hormones. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite. It is the on-switch. In the years to come we’re going to see some pharmacology directed at manipulating those hormones.

Social and environmental factors play a major role in the development of obesity. Americans are more likely to be obese if they have a low socioeconomic status. Individuals under the poverty line have very few resources to put together a healthy diet. Quite honestly, fat and sugar calories are unbelievably cheap. We also see obesity rising among the affluent also, so this isn’t the only factor.

The level of education is associated with bodyweight as well, mostly for women. This illustrates the different standards for men and women.

We are bombarded with images of individuals who are lean and fit in a country that’s getting heavier. In the last Olympics, where some women competing there were heavier, disparaging remarks were made about their bodyweight. We didn’t here this comments about the men, however. There have been some estimates that suggest that to be Miss America your bodyweight needs to be 10% to 15% below ideal.

One factor that doesn’t get explored very often is something called the built environment. For example, if you live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, are you going to go out and walk? Without sidewalks I don’ feel safe, so I have to get in my car to go get physical activity. Think about inner city neighborhoods. If you don’t have good sidewalks people are not going to be out being physically active.

We have social factors as well that influence the way we choose our food. When we’re with friends we tend to overeat. Think about times you’ve spent time with relatives and there’s food everywhere. Science also suggests that we eat what’s in front of use. If the portions you’re given are large, you tend to eat them anyway.

A lack of exercise is a major factor contributing to obesity. Only 22% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise (somewhere around 30 minutes a day most days of the week). 25% of US adults are not active at all. All they do is to get from their chair to the car, getting no real physical exercise.

Television viewing is highly correlated with a low level of activity for both children and adults. Why is that the case? Most of us are not terribly active while we’re watching television. Here’s a tip: make sure you’re riding that bike for at least 30 minutes of your television viewing a day.

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