Although in small proportions, obesity has always existed in almost all societies. Now, however, the huge increase in overweight or obese people has led to one of the most important health problems in the world.
But why does this happen? What are the causes that lead people to eat well above their needs?
Influential factors are multiple, being classified into genetic, personal and environmental. Of these, the hereditary factor is attributed in part to non-hereditary personal factors and social aspects.
From the 60s and 70s of the last century, and in relation to the rapid increase in cases of overweight and obesity, the first medical explanations were the obvious, ie if these situations are caused by increased body fat, this is the consequence of eating more than necessary to maintain energy reserves.
So the solution is to restrict access to calories in the diet and, at the same time, increase caloric expenditure through physical activity.
The explanation is true, but leaves out other factors, those that refer to genetics and personal and social way of life. Since then, in countries such as Spain began the spread of "balanced calorie diets" of 1000 kc, 1200 kc, 1500 kc or something more, and this action, with small variations, is still maintained.
But the situation instead of improving has not stopped going worse and there are no signs of change. Inheritance has a role in favoring the distribution and accumulation of fat but also the role of transmitting to children the paternal eating habits and their own patterns of behavior.
Other personal factors of metabolic endocrine type can influence in small proportion in their appearance, the menopause, etc.
Advances have been made in genetic studies but it is far from determining the majority of the genes that cause obesity; it is very possible that this is the result of genetic and non-genetic interactions, these being determinants.
Neuroendocrine causes have been valued since the discovery at the end of the last century of substances such as leptin, ghrelin, adiponectins and others produced in the adipose tissue that act as mediators in the appetite regulation system.
Nor have good results been achieved to reduce the appetite in obese people. Social aspects are fundamental to understanding the progress of obesity. The lower the study and economic levels, the obese have more dependence on fast and cheap food.
For example, the economic cost of candy, corn and soybeans is low and these are important sources of sugar and fats in processed foods, being cheaper than vegetables and fish.
Intense advertising of sweet and quick foods has also determined many poor dietary habits. Increasing the less active lifestyle in travel and work is another important aspect.
Long hours in front of a computer occupy the working hours of millions of people, whereas previously more physical work. The great expansion of the mega-cities produces in parallel a growth of the rate of obesity.
As can be seen, the causes of fat are very complex and largely obey environmental, social and cultural aspects.
And all these factors ultimately influence what is known as food addiction .
The current way of life generates intense stressful situations that produce many alterations in the organism. In the case of obesity, anxiety is reduced by eating, leading to a severe form of drug addiction as similar and powerful as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs more or less prohibited.
Therefore, reducing to a conventional low calorie diet in such conflictive situations has seldom good results. That is why, for many years, these diets have been combined with appetite suppressants at the brain level with irregular results, because they reduced "emotional hunger" but also produced other clinical problems.
Today, protein-based diets are used, which have good results and in recent years have seen a great increase.
But, as you can see, the situation is very complex and affects the whole of society; necessitating a general change of habits and tendencies.