Fighting the Misinformation
While many Americans today affected by obesity are being anchored down by their heavy weight physically and mentally, there are those who would argue that this condition is not at all a disease. Opponents of pharmaceutical drugs like Qnexa claim that the solution to obesity lies in simple alterations of activity and diet. This misinformation has lead to an under-classification of the serious nature of obesity and all of the complexities that are tied into its onset. Although obesity is not actually classified as a disease, it is a serious medical condition, stemming from many biological factors, and is proven to be full of life-threatening risks.
A person’s weight can be determined at the moment of conception. Rather than being a product of poor decisions regarding activity and food consumption, weight has significant ties to genetics. It is already known that genetics can easily cause variations throughout populations causing decreased functionality of the thyroid gland. Effects of thyroid deficiencies include: “lack of energy, depression, constipation, weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, dry coarse hair…” (PubMed Health) Thyroid is responsible for controlling a person’s metabolism; a high metabolism is capable of utilizing energy efficiently while a low metabolism cannot and therefor energy is reserved as fat. The imbalance of thyroid hormones within the human body plays a critical role in a person’s level of energy, as well as weight. A study conducted by the Endocrine Society concluded, “Thyroid function (also within the normal range) could be one of several factors acting in concert to determine body weight in a population. Even slightly elevated serum TSH levels are associated with an increase in the occurrence of obesity.” (Knudsen)
During pregnancy, a fetus is totally dependent on its mother for food, nutrition, and ultimately health. An obese woman runs the risk of developing gestational diabetes, a condition which “prevents your body from breaking down sugar and can put your baby at risk for gaining too much weight in utero.” (Pregnancy-Info) High birth weight predisposes a child to develop obesity within his or her lifetime due to the improper development during pregnancy. When it comes to weight, starting life on the wrong foot significantly affects its quality.
Heredity is a more direct genetic role in the shaping of a person’s body. While it is true that family values and diets are often a heavy influence on those of a child, parental genetic makeup also plays a crucial role. “Twin and population studies have revealed that both body mass index (BMI) and waist/hip ratio (WHR) are heritable traits, with genetics accounting for 25–70% of the observed variability.” (Gesta) Different genes determine how a person will process energy. For this reason, two people following the same diet and exercise routine may find contrasting results in their bodily reactions. This is because our genes instruct the body how it should spend energy, where it should store energy, how many fat cells to store, and even how quickly the body should resort to using stored energy. Obesity can be passed down via genetic inheritance just like the many diseases that exist today like Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The genes causing someone to have more weight than what is deemed average may code for inadequate or insufficient regulation of bodily chemicals designed to maintain balance. A great example of such imbalance is type 1 diabetes, an inherited disease that can cause people to lose weight because their bodies cannot breakdown glucose. However, genetics play much more of a role in the shaping of the body, even without causing a disease. The complexities of the effects genes have on our weight are still elusive to scientists today, but progress is being made toward associating certain gene types with the production of adipose tissue.
Another problem challenging humans globally is malnutrition, a cause of obesity. While many Americans blame obesity on the availability of fast food, the correlation between fast food and obesity is actually more complex. The food produced from fast food companies certainly doesn’t lack in any caloric substance, yet it void of many essential nutrients and vitamins. “A newly appreciated paradox has been described that links poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition to obesity, or the state of overnutrition.” (Tanumihardjo) Essentially, the body enters a state of starvation when deprived of essential nutrients for so long, despite the more than adequate amounts of energy being taken in. As a result, the outward appearance would seem to indicate a need to diet and exercise more, but internally the person would be starved and nutritionally deprived. This global issue is directly correlated with poverty and the inability to provide nutritional foods.
Opponents of Qnexa argue that such a drug is only an added risk to the public since obesity is not even a disease. However, the fact that obesity is a medical condition according to the CDC should not be taken as an excuse to disregard its prevalence and dangers. In addition to its severity, the FDA has approved various OTC medications and treatments for trivial conditions like acne and even sunburn. However, unlike the latter two conditions, obesity has ties to many diseases and other conditions that unfortunately cannot always be treated by a drug and are usually irreversible. Such diseases like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and osteoarthritis are just some of many complications that a person becomes susceptible to as they continue their lives as obese.
While some may argue that people do not die from obesity, it would be just as fair to say guns never kill people. To be that technical, the cause of death is always organ failure. Even if a person doesn’t view obesity specifically as a disease, it’s tied to enough medical complications, diseases, and conditions to cause it to be a big concern for the Center of Disease Control (CDC). Its Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) is attempting to address the issue by combating some of the factors that contribute to nation’s current epidemic. If the situation were left alone, many Americans would die. While obesity doesn’t always directly cause a person to die, most of the time an obese person dies due to a disease or condition they developed because they were obese. “Individuals who are obese have a significantly increased risk of death from all causes, compared with healthy weight individuals.” (WIN) Even though obesity cannot technically be deemed as the cause of death, it indirectly takes the lives of the people it has affected in one form or another.
Unfortunately, obesity is not the simple condition that many misinformed writers have discussed. Obesity has become the endemic that it is due to many economical, environmental, and genetic factors. Without proper education of the various stressors that are affecting those plagued by obesity, progress will not come any more easily. Safe measures should be adopted to help the situation, like the adoption of DNPAO programs and approval of safe drugs like Qnexa. These measures can help lower the mortality rates associated with obesity.
Gesta, Stephane, Matthias Blüher, Yuji Yamamoto, Andrew W. Norris, Janin Berndt, Susan Kralisch, Jeremie Boucher, Choy Lewis, and C. R. Kahn. “Evidence for a Role of Developmental Genes in the Origin of Obesity and Body Fat Distribution.“ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 9 Mar. 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2012.
Knudsen, Nils, Peter Laurberg, Lone B. Rasmussen, Inge Inge Bülow, Hans Perrild, Lars Ovesen, and Torben Jørgensen. “Small Differences in Thyroid Function May Be Important for Body Mass Index and the Occurrence of Obesity in the Population.“ The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. July 2005. Web. 12 Apr. 2012.
“Obesity During Pregnancy.” Pregnancy-Info.net. Web. 08 Mar. 2012.
Tanumihardjo, Sherry A., Cheryl Anderson, Martha Kaufer-Horwitz, Lars Bode, Nancy J. Emenaker, Andrea M. Haqq, Jessie A. Satia, Heidi J. Silver, and Diane D. Stadler. “Poverty, Obesity, and Malnutrition: An International Perspective Recognizing the Paradox“ Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Web.
“Thyroid.“ PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Dec. -0001. Web. 12 Apr. 2012.