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Causes of Child Obesity: Genetics, Nutrition, or Something Else?
Obesity is now increasingly recognized as a global public health concern; moreover, this disorder is getting younger, with children and adolescents starting to get obese at a much earlier age. Given the serious consequences of obesity such as diabetes mellitus, CVD, and various other chronic diseases, it becomes imperative to understand the complex aetiology of the problem and its biological, genetic, socio-cultural, and psychological aspects (Garbarino and Sigman, 2010). The majority of experts indicate that no single influence can be isolated and singled out as the primary cause of obesity, so all aspects have to be considered in a conjunction to deal with the problem of unhealthy weight gain effectively.
Since biological influences on child obesity mostly play the major part in determining proneness to overweight, they serve as the first point of consideration for specialists wishing to discern the causes of abnormal weight in an affected child. Thrifty genes can affect the central nervous system and cause the formation of adipose cells, which in their turn create the body fat (Sugunendran, 2012). Other biological obesity causes include hormonal and neuroendocrinological abnormalities, as well as imbalanced thermogenesis that affects the resting energy expenditure adversely. One of such examples is the Prader-Willi syndrome, the genetic disorder causing excessive appetite, low muscle tone, and immature physical development frequently aggravated by learning disability and emotional control issues (Heaton-Harris, 2009). These effects ultimately shape the insufficient total caloric expenditure and result in obesity that can hardly be addressed with diet or physical exercise.
Another cause of obesity is the complex of environmental influences; these are highly diverse and can be discerned much harder than biological factors. Inappropriate nutrition of mother during pregnancy, post-natal conditioning and improper diet, unhealthy eating habits and inactive lifestyle all contribute to the development of child obesity (Cobert and Cobert, 2010). The overall environment in which the child grows and acquires lifestyle and nutritional habits affects this aspect of proneness to obesity; as Tessmer, Beecher, and Hagen (2011) clarified, childhood obesity is the problem affecting exclusively the wealthy, industrialized nations, which is mainly explained by the high level of well-being and great prevalence of high-fat diets. As the researchers put it, residents of wealthy nations are accustomed to eating as much as they want, wherever and whenever they want, and consume various fast foods at increasing portions, sharing such nutritional habits with their children and dooming them to obesity at a younger age. Moreover, Westerners from industrialized countries often lead a sedentary lifestyle and spend their evenings in front of the TV set, eating some snacks – which makes exposure to obesity enormous (Davies and Fitzgerald, 2007).
Hence, as one can see from the presented evidence, there are indeed some strong genetic and biological predeterminants of childhood obesity not depending on nutrition and lifestyle, and obesity in such scenarios should be targeted with medications. However, in the majority of cases, children and adolescents fall prey to high-fat and sugar diets and lack of healthy physical activity. In connection with such global epidemiological findings, it is equally imperative for individual families and entire governments to take effective measures to combat obesity with health education, dietary amendments, and the promotion of physical activity.