Obesity in America: What Causes Obesity? Image

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), one-third of American adults suffer from obesity, a chronic condition characterized by excess body fat. Childhood obesity in America is increasing rapidly — the Trust for America’s Health (2009) reports that 30 states have at least 30 percent of children meeting the criteria for obesity.

Obesity isn’t confined to America. Rates of obesity are rising across the globe, especially in industrialized, urban centers. According to the World Health Organization (2006), global rates of obesity reached 400 million in 2005, and an additional 1.6 billion adults were overweight.

What Causes Obesity?

At its simplest, obesity can develop if a person’s calorie intake — the food he eats — exceeds the amount of calories used. Excess calories are stored as body fat, leading to weight gain and sometimes obesity.

Factors influencing the rise of obesity in America (and worldwide) include dietary changes to energy-rich foods with high sugar and fat content. This trend is coupled with an increase in sedentary jobs and activities. People are generally consuming more calories, but moving less.

BMI and an Obesity Calculator

To find out if you are overweight or suffer from obesity, you’ll need to know your BMI, or Body Mass Index. A BMI is a calculation based on your weight and height. You can use an obesity calculator to determine your BMI and risk of obesity:

  • BMI of 18.5-24.9: Normal
  • BMI of 25-29.9: Overweight
  • BMI of 30-39.9: Obesity
  • BMI of 40 : Morbid obesity.

Health risks associated with obesity increase dramatically for people with BMI scores higher than 40. In order to quickly find out your BMI, you can find many obesity calculator tools online.

Health Risks and Obesity in America

Obesity in America is serious, as weight gain directly influences the risk of health complications. According to the U.S. Surgeon General (2007), approximately 300,000 deaths a year are related to obesity in America.

The range of health complications associated with obesity is sobering. A person with a BMI over 30 has a higher than normal risk of multiple health problems, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer (including breast, colon and endometrial cancer)
  • Gallstones
  • Gout
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance
  • Sleep apnea
  • Strokes
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Childhood Obesity in America

Childhood obesity in America is of special concern. Childhood obesity rates have increased three-fold since 1980, as the Trust for America’s Health (2009) reports. Diseases once seen infrequently in children, such as type 2 diabetes, are now disturbingly common. As overweight children age, it is feared they will develop serious health conditions earlier in life than those who maintained healthy body weights.

Combating Obesity in America

Fortunately, obesity is not irreversible. Changes in eating habits and exercising often result in weight loss, and even a modest decrease in weight reduces the risk of obesity-related disorders.

Changes in lifestyle and eating habits are often the first treatments for obesity. Should lifestyle changes fail, obese individuals may make use of medical solutions, such as surgery and medication. Obesity in America is a serious issue, but one that individuals can control if they know what causes obesity.


Balentine, J.