American Survey Finds People Blame Willpower for Obesity

Donít Blame Your Willpower for Obesity, Itís In Your Genes

Amrita Surendranath
Article Reviewed by The Medindia Medical Review Team on November 10, 2016 at 3:30 PM
Health In Focus
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  • Around 1509 people surveyed by a research team from The University of Cambridge responded to why obese people remain fat.
  • Three-fourth of the respondents said they felt obese people lacked the willpower to follow a diet and exercise plan.
  • Out of the 94% of obese people surveyed, a quarter tried to lose weight 5 to 9 times while 15% tried 20 times to lose weight but were unsuccessful.

What do People Think About Obese People?

Our society is ingrained with certain preconceived notions about weight gain. While there is increased public understanding about the balance between energy intake and energy consumption, an overwhelming proportion of people still do not understand the genetic basis of obesity. This was brought to the fore when researchers from The University of Chicago carried out a large survey to understand the thought process of Americans with regard to obesity.
Donít Blame Your Willpower for Obesity, Itís In Your Genes

Nationally representative sample of 1509 people were included in the study in a bid to understand an American's view on being overweight.
  • What causes it
  • Whether individuals are responsible
  • Ways to cure it
  • Whether it is a disease
The study found that a large proportion of people still held onto the outdated belief that an obese person needs to work on willpower to lose weight - control diet and increase exercises. Obesity †researcher Dr Donna Ryan states that this amounts to stigmatizing the individual, preventing support and help, though people with alcohol problems are treated with far more concern.

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What Causes Obesity?

Obesity, or weight gain, is due to an energy imbalance, when there is more food consumed than work done, the additional energy is stored in the body as fat. While this directly relates to the eating behavior of the individual, associating it with willpower would be too simplistic.

Obesity risks are increased by
  • Diet: The calories consumed play a very important role in weight gain and the number of calories required depends on the age of the individual and the activity level.
  • Physical Activity: Physical activity includes exercises, energy spent commuting to work, whether it is a desk job or it involves moving around. Any activity that uses the energy consumed.
  • Genes: Just like the need to procreate, the risk for diseases or even how tall you will turn out to be, is determined by a set of genes.

Willpower or Genes

In the study it was found that 94% of people who were obese tried to lose weight either by following a diet or by exercising. Out of which
  • Quarter of these people attempted 5 to 9 times to lose weight
  • 15% had attempted more than 20 times.
The number of unsuccessful attempts by these people showed that there was no lack of willpower but an underlying factor that prevented them from losing weight.

There are numerous studies that point towards inflammation that increases the risk of obesity or mutation in certain genes like the FTO genes. The ability of the body to store fat is directed by the genes with the view that the body would utilize this stored energy reserve during a famine or long periods of starvation. During evolution, there was probably active selection of these survival genes that lead to fat storage.

Greater awareness needs to be created about the genetic basis of weight gain and the need to find the right intervention strategies which could promote weight loss.

Source: Medindia

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