Obesity: Nature or Nurture

1081 words | 4 page(s)


Obesity is characterized by having excess body weight from surplus body fat. Obesity puts the sufferer at risk of diseases and other health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes (Bray & Bouchard, 2014). Body Mass Index is a reliable determinant of obesity. BMI helps to determine if a person is at a healthy weight in relation to their height. (Bray & Bouchard, 2014). Body Mass Index is the division of weight in kilograms by height in meters. The result is divided again by height in meters (Bray & Bouchard, 2014). For adults, a healthy body mass index is known to range from 19 to 25. A figure of more than 29 is an indication that one is overweight while a result of between 30 and 39 is considered obesity (Bray & Bouchard, 2014). There are various habits that cause a person to become obese and develop obesity-related health problems. They include; poor diet that is high in calories and low in carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins, leading a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, environmental factors and medical reasons. The assignment focuses on the genetic and environmental factors that cause obesity.

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Nature or Nurture
Several studies have concluded that propensity to gaining weight is influenced by genetic factors (Fleming, 2010). Research on twins, family members and adoption studies evaluate the influence of genetics on weight. 40-70% of the difference among children with respect to their weight was ascribed to genes (Fleming, 2010). These estimates are to some extent fewer than those for height, which is a trait that is almost without demur considered as genetic (Fleming, 2010). Studies conducted on families have demonstrated that children of obese parents and with obese siblings are five times more likely to develop obesity (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014). However, this fact can be brought about by the family’s unhealthy eating habits or genetic predisposition to obesity or both (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014).

Presence of monogenic traits of obesity is proof that obesity is caused by genetic mutations (Myles & Tanja, 2006). The most regular forms of obesity are the result of differences in a large number of genes. Chain variations within a collection of 56 different genes have been shown to have a relation with obesity phenotypes. But 10 out of the 56 genes showed positive outcomes in approximately five studies (Myles & Tanja, 2006).

Despite the issue of rare gene mutations associated with obesity, many people have a genetic predisposition that leads to obesity (Myles & Tanja, 2006). Studies have revealed that obesity susceptibility genes and the blending of an environment that encourages the likelihood of obesity will lead to obesity. It is, however, possible to be obese without having genetic influences to obesity. Genetic factors involve energy intake (eating) and expenditure (metabolism) and how the body and environment influence the two (Myles & Tanja, 2006). Identification of these genes will help to develop treatment strategies and to identify high-risk groups.

Obesity is brought about by factors such as overall food intake, type of food consumed and eating patterns. In the event that obesity gets attributed to high quantity food intake and low physical activity, the quantity of food consumed is the point of interest (Myles & Tanja, 2006). Research has shown that there is a relationship between eating and childhood obesity, controlling physical activity and parents’ body weight (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014).

The role of parents in regulating the quality and quantity of food in the home is vital (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014). Mothers that are overweight tend to serve their children large portions of foods. This in turn causes the children to develop childhood obesity (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014). Social learning theories suggest that children tend to copy habits and actions of people close to them and people they love, such as parents. In that regard, unhealthy eating habits practiced by parents in the seminal developmental stage results in a high intake of fatty foods in adolescents and adulthood (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014).

Types of food consumed contribute to obesity. Obese children eat foods high in fat and carbohydrates as opposed to leaner children (Myles & Tanja, 2006). Fatty foods are very high in energy and are hence associated with obesity because the excess energy gets stored in the body as fat. Fatty foods do not communicate strong satiety messages in the body like carbohydrates do (Myles & Tanja, 2006). As a result, they are addictive and are consumed in larger quantities than is required. Examples of such foods are fast foods and processed foods like crackers and cookies.

An individual’s environment has several influences that may contribute to obesity. A home that has a high social, economic standing is less likely to have obese members. People of high social standing have the financial means to purchase healthy foods (Myles & Tanja, 2006). They are also in most cases educated, and hence they understand the importance of a nutritious diet, what it entails, and exercise (Myles & Tanja, 2006). Low-income homes do not have the means to access enough healthy foods. Most cheap diets are of low nutritional value, hence increasing the risk of obesity in such a home.

Homes that are in proximity to fast foods increase the chances of its people developing obesity due to easy access, especially the young people (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014). The reverse is also true; where an access to healthier options of food leads to a higher intake of healthy food. In the external setting, habitual eating in the office, for example, may lead to significant weight gain. Easy to handle foods are usually dry snacks like burgers or crackers. Social eating habits may influence obesity as humans are more likely to enjoy meals in a social setting than in solitude.

The analysis has shown a positive correlation between genetics and the environment on obesity. Obesity is a preventable condition that takes self-awareness and a conscious, healthy lifestyle (Wright & Hardwood, 20102). Individuals predisposed to obesity do not necessarily have to develop the disease. They need to be more watchful of their energy intake and environmental influences to keep healthy. A healthy lifestyle choice leads to quality life in all contexts.

  • Bray, G. A., & Bouchard, C. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of Obesity. Clinical Applications (Vol. 2). CRC Press.
  • Fleming, G (2010). Childhood obesity: nature or nurture? Student Psychology Journal, vol 2, pp 1-11.
  • Myles, S. F., & Tanja V. E (2006). Social Environmental and Genetic Influences on Obesity and Obesity-Promoting Behaviors: Fostering Research Integration. National Academy of Sciences.
  • Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Jama, 311(8), 806-814.
  • Wright, J., & Harwood, V. (Eds.). (2012). Biopolitics and the ‘obesity epidemic’: Governing bodies (Vol. 3). Routledge.

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