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Causes of Morbid Obesity

The causes of obesity cannot be easily defined. Conventional wisdom suggests that obesity is simply the result of consuming more calories than what is burned off. However, there are many reasons for the imbalance of calories in/calories out, and several factors are involved. The causes of obesity may include an individuals life style, genetic makeup, metabolism, environment, and behavior.


Elevators, escalators, moving side walks, motor vehicles, riding lawn mowers are all examples of how we have adapted our environment to lifestyles that demand we do more things in the same amount of time. In addition to getting from place to place faster, we no longer have to expend as much physical energy as we previously did.

Research has concluded that the combination of an excessive nutrient intake and a sedentary lifestyle are the main cause for the rapid acceleration of obesity in Western society in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Despite the widespread availability of nutritional information in schools, doctors' offices, on the internet and on groceries, it is evident that overeating remains a substantial problem. However, dietary intake alone is not able to explain the vast rise in levels of obesity in much of the industrialized world during recent years.

An increasingly sedentary lifestyle also has a significant role to play as well as other less understood life style issues like a stressful mentality and insufficient sleep.

Genetic Makeup

Numerous scientific studies have established that your genes play an important role in your tendency to gain excess weight:

  • The body weight of adopted children shows no correlation with the body weight of their adoptive parents, who feed them and teach them how to eat. Their weight does have an 80 percent correlation with their genetic parents whom they have never met.
  • Identical twins with the same genes show a much higher similarity of body weights than do fraternal twins who have different genes.
  • Certain groups of people, such as the Pima Indian tribe in Arizona, have a very high incidence of severe obesity. They also have significantly higher rates of diabetes and heart disease than other ethnic groups.

We probably have a number of genes directly related to weight. Just as some genes determine eye color or height, others affect our appetite, our ability to feel full or satisfied, our metabolism, our fat-storing ability, and even our natural activity levels.


We used to think of weight gain or loss as only a function of calories ingested and then burned. Take in more calories than you burn, gain weight; burn more calories than you ingest, lose weight. But now we know the equation isn't that simple.

Obesity researchers now talk about a theory called the "set point," a sort of thermostat in the brain that makes people resistant to either weight gain or loss. If you try to override the set point by drastically cutting your calorie intake, your brain responds by lowering metabolism and slowing activity. You then gain back any weight you lost.

Environmental Factors

Environmental and genetic factors are obviously closely intertwined. If you have a genetic predisposition toward obesity then the modern American lifestyle and environment may make controlling weight more difficult.

Fast food, long days sitting at a desk, and suburban neighborhoods that require cars all magnify hereditary factors such as metabolism and efficient fat storage.

For those suffering from morbid obesity anything less than a total change in environment usually results in failure to reach and maintain a healthy body weight when using non-surgical weight loss options.


In todays fast-paced environment it is easy to adopt unhealthy behaviors. Behavior, in the case of morbid obesity, relates to food choices, amount of physical activity you get and the effort to maintain your health.

Americans are consuming more calories on average than in past decades. The increase in caloric intake has also decreased the nutrients consumed that are needed for a healthy diet. This behavioral problem also relates to the increase in portion sizes at home and when dining out.

While Americans are consuming more calories they are not expending them with enough physical activity. Physical activity is an important element in modifying and shaping behaviors. The influence of television, computers and other technologies discourage physical activity and add to the problem of obesity in our society.

Eating Disorders & Medical Conditions

Weight loss surgery is not a cure for eating disorders. And there are medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that can also cause weight gain. That's why it's important that you work with your doctor to make sure you do not have a condition that should be treated with medication and counseling.