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Understanding Obesity Essay

1174 words - 5 pages

Obesity is defined as an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over an individual's ideal body weight (Ford-Martin, 2003). Not long ago, obesity was revered as a sign of wealth. But in the 1900s, the ideal body type began to get thinner. The impact was felt primarily on woman and somehow their success in life became linked to how thin they were. Science is now grasping the fact that biology plays a major role in body weight. Weight control is a huge medical problem in the U.S. (Powell, 2001). About half of the people in U.S. are overweight and one third are clinically obese (Powell, 2001). Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (Graham, 2002). Americans fork over more than $30 billion a year on weight loss endeavors (Graham, 2002). But Americans aren't alone when it comes to weight problems. According to new statistics, 1.1 billion people worldwide have a body mass index higher than 25, which classifies them as obese or overweight (Powell, 2001). Figure 1 shows U.S. has the highest percentage of overweight adults in the 7 most obese countries of the world. To thoroughly understand how the body controls body weight, one must grasp the "set point" theory of weight control. Many factors contribute to obesity. According to scientists, genetics is the major cause of obesity. Due to extensive researching, many diseases and illnesses are now acknowledged as symptoms of obesity. In addition, different types of treatments for obesity are now available for different types of obese people.One of the biggest breakthroughs in obesity studies was the discovery of a hormone called leptin. Leptin was originally identified late in 1994 by Rockefeller University researchers led by Jeffrey Friedman (Kluger, 2001). It is encoded by the obese (OB) gene or "fat" gene (Kluger, 2001). The "obese" gene, cloned by Friedman and others, contains the blueprint for leptin (MacPherson and Silverman, 2003). As a result, mice with a mutated version of the gene grow to several times normal weight and fail to produce leptin or make an altered version of the hormone produced by fat cells (MacPherson and Silverman, 2003). Figure 2 demonstrates how a mouse with the defective gene gains weight and is twice the size of the normal mouse on the right.The discovery raised hopes of a quick fix for obesity, because fat mice injected with leptin were quickly cured of gross obesity (MacPherson and Silverman, 2003). Human beings possess an equivalent of the mouse's "fat gene" (Marmor, 1997). This means that if a person became fatter the he/she was meant to be, it would make more leptin, which would then act to return the weight to the set point according to the "set point" theory (Vogel, 1996).To understand completely how the body regulates weight, the "set point" theory must be introduced. The "set point" theory was an idea that was actually first put forth back in the early 1950s (Marmor, 1997). The theory is that the brain locks onto a set body...

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