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To What Extent Can Obesity Be Explained By Biological Factors

2676 words - 11 pages

AbstractObesity is a globally escalating health problem. The following report concentrates on what biological factors are related to obesity and how can it be overcome.OutlineObesity is an increasing problem that contributes to ill health (National Audit Office, 2001). It has been defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) (WHO, 1998) as an excessive accumulation of fat (lipids) in the adipose tissue of the body. This paper addresses the various relations of obesity with biological factors.Obesity and Biological FactorsObesity is the most common nutritional disorder in Western cultures. It has been associated with such maladies as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. In the United States, fully one-third of the population struggles with obesity--defined as an excess of 20 percent over the ideal body weight for a given height. Those who suffer from obesity fight back with limited success, trying everything from appetite suppressants and starvation diets to exercise regimens and other weight-loss programs. As a whole, the overweight population spends over $30 billion a year trying to shed those unwanted and unhealthy pounds (Andrews, 1996).Obesity is a complex physical condition, and its direct causes are still not well understood. A variety of factors may be involved, including behavioural and life-style factors such as diet, exercise, and even psychological health. But because of the complexity of factors influencing body weight, researchers have found it difficult to pinpoint biological factors that may be directly responsible.Obesity, like hypertension and hyperglycaemia with which it is associated, is a risk factor for disease (Royal College of Physicians, 1983, 5-65) and is increasingly encountered in developing as well as developed countries (World Health Organisation, 1990; 29-31). The increase in overweight in the past 20 years and the association with low socioeconomic status (Sobal and Stunkard, 1989, 260-75) suggest that environmental factors contribute to the risk of obesity, but population studies show that environmental characteristics explain only a very small proportion of the overall variation in body build (Rona and Morris, 1982, 147-56). The similarity of body build among family members suggests that genetic factors are important. Since effects of genetic or environmental influences might be first detectable in childhood, understanding these earliest precursors of obesity could help in the formulation of preventive strategies.Obesity can be quantified by indices of relative weight (or weight for height), which should provide measures of bodyweight that are largely independent of height. The body mass index (BMI, weight divided by height squared) should not be used as an index of childhood weight for height because of an age dependent association with height and increasing variance with age, even after log transformation (Chinn et al, 1992, 489-500). Rolland-Cachera and colleagues (1991, 13-21)...

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