The Most Significant Causes of Weight Gain and Obesity

March 28, 2022

Obesity is a condition characterized by having excess body weight. A patient is considered obese when their body weight is at least twenty percent higher than recommended or when their body mass index (BMI) is between twenty-five and 29.9. Obesity is a global problem that increases a patient's risk of developing heart disease, type two diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer, respiratory problems, sleep disorders, osteoarthritis, infertility, disability, or premature death.

Eating Too Many Processed Foods

Eating too many processed foods may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to weight gain, but most individuals are unaware of what constitutes processed food. Many foods today are hyper-palatable, which means the food manufacturer loads them up with refined or cheap ingredients containing lots of chemicals to give them a longer shelf life. Because they are inexpensive and taste good, individuals are likely to buy more. Examples of hidden processed foods include granola or fruit bars, cereals, baked goods, candy and sweets, soups, bread, and even some canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.

Eating Addiction

Although food addiction is socially perceived as less harmful than drug, alcohol, or gambling addictions, it is not much different in terms of the effects it has on the affected individual's body. Eating highly processed junk foods stimulates the reward centers in the brain just like any other addiction. One study showed daily binge eating released dopamine, a 'feel good'; hormone in the brain. Individuals who have no control over their eating or drinking habits may require professional help to overcome their addiction.

Insulin Responses

Insulin can be an obesity trigger as it is responsible for regulating energy storage in an individual's body. In fact, research shows there is a significant association between the Westernized diet, metabolic syndrome, and the body's insulin response. Diets high in processed foods increase an individual's insulin levels, which signals fat cells to store calories as fat instead of releasing it for immediate use as fuel. The best way for individuals to stabilize their insulin levels for the long-term is to replace processed or refined carbohydrates with fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed whole grains.

Slanted Marketing

The typical Westernized diet is chiefly built on a perceived notion that food should be quick, cheap, and easily accessible. Junk food companies are especially good at marketing toward children as they are easily influenced by bright colors and false connections between food and fun times. Children often then pester their parents about buying these foods, and while parents can say no, children do have significant power over the choice as well in many instances. Many food marketers spend lots of money to make misleading claims in an attempt to get the consumer to purchase their product. Healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, and organic foods are less desirable because they are more expensive and less advertised.

Leptin Resistance

Leptin resistance is one of the leading causes of obesity. Also referred to as the 'fat or obesity hormone,' leptin is produced by fat cells and is responsible for sending signals to the part of the brain that controls hunger and food intake, known as the hypothalamus, when an individual is full and needs to stop eating. Research shows individuals who are obese have access levels of leptin; however, the leptin in those who are overweight or obese does not work the way it should. Instead, it becomes resistant to sending full signals to the brain, which makes it easier for individuals to eat far more than they should.


Obesity or weight gain is a common symptom or side effect of quite a few different medications or pharmaceutical drugs, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and diabetes drugs. Although these medications may not cause an individual to eat more or crave more food, they may create dysfunction in the way their brain and body stores food instead of burning it, similar to the way too much insulin causes fat to be stored. A doctor should be able to recommend other drugs that do not cause weight gain.

Food Desert

One reason why some individuals are more likely to gain a little weight or become obese is because of a lack of availability of food where they live. Also known as a food desert, some areas of the world do not have access to healthy foods or even grocery stores. Or, at least, not nearly as much as other areas. Many areas only offer fast food or gas station food as options for nutrition. Because these foods are cheap, they appear to be a better finical decision for some families who cannot afford grocery store food; therefore, the need for a supermarket decreases.

Lack Of Knowledge

In many parts of the world, people make poor decisions about their diet simply because they are misinformed about their health. Even most medical doctors are not required to spend a lot of time studying nutrition, which leaves the standard patient free to make their nutritional choices based on what food is available nearby and what they can afford. With no one to inform them of healthy choices, the majority of obese patients may become so because they have never been taught otherwise.

Refined Sugar

Processed or refined sugar may arguably be the most predominant cause of obesity worldwide. Sugar is made up of half glucose and half fructose, which have been shown to elevate insulin levels when eaten in excess amounts. Sugar may also cause leptin resistance and contributes to fat storage as it is high in calories and low in nutrients. It should be noted the sugar found in fruit is perfectly healthy and does not increase insulin levels like refined sugars do. One study even shows when eaten with high glycemic foods, such as white bread, berries have a protective effect that may even reduce insulin spikes.


Research shows some individuals are simply genetically prone to being overweight. One study looked at the differences between genetics and long-term overfeeding in twelve pairs of young adult monozygotic twins. The twins were overfed by approximately one thousand calories per day for six weeks. Each twin was examined for changes in body composition, fat mass, percentage of fat, and topography of fat distribution. Results showed each set of twins exhibited different regional fat distribution and amount of abdominal fat, meaning genetics may govern how the body stores energy as either fat or lean tissue, at least in part.

Lack Of Physical Exercise

All of the food and drinks individuals consume on a daily basis contain calories. These calories are used as fuel by the body to help give individuals energy. If individuals do not burn more calories than they consume, they will gradually gain weight over time. While individuals will still burn some calories during periods of rest and relaxation, it is not enough to prevent weight gain. This is why it is extremely important to undergo some sort of physical activity every day. In addition to leading to obesity, a lack of physical exercise can also potentially cause several other serious health issues. The body simply needs to move on a regular basis in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic condition caused by missing or additional genes on chromosome 15. As a result of these gene defects, the condition is characterized by serious physical and behavioral issues. One of the most common symptoms of Prader-Willi syndrome is a constant urge to eat. This constant hunger usually starts in early childhood, and it does not go away at any point in adulthood. Since patients with this condition are constantly eating, they can become obese fairly early in life. The condition also causes a lack of muscle mass in the body, which makes maintaining a normal weight even harder because the body is not turning any of the consumed food into muscle. The lack of muscle can also make it harder to exercise or perform other physical activities.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome is a medical condition that forms when the cortisol levels in the body get too high. Cortisol is a hormone naturally produced by the body to help the heart and blood vessel work properly. It also helps the body metabolize food into energy. Unfortunately, the hormone is not able to do its job when there is too much of it in the body. The most common symptom of Cushing's syndrome is excessive weight gain. The extra weight typically grows on the stomach, face, and upper back. Since the body is more prone to weight gain and obesity when suffering from this condition, it is vitally important to eat a healthy diet.

Lack Of Quality Sleep

It is generally recommended for most adults to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Failing to get the recommended amount of sleep will not only make individuals feel very tired in the morning, but it can also cause them to gain weight. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones found the body that help regulate appetite. A lack of quality sleep drastically reduces the effectiveness of these hormones, which means individuals will feel hungrier after a night of poor sleep. In addition to this increased appetite, individuals are also far more likely to crave fatty and sugary foods when they are sleep deprived. If individuals experience prolonged sleep issues, it is only a matter of time before they start to pack on the pounds.

Stress Or Boredom

Stress has a tendency to completely take over an individual's life. It can also cause obesity and several other serious health issues if individuals are not careful. One of the body's natural responses to stress or boredom is to head to the kitchen for a snack. This snack is often eaten when individuals are not even hungry. Eating the snack is just a way to pass some time. This would not be a major issue if an individual were to choose a healthy snack, but that rarely happens. In addition to poor eating habits, stress also disrupts an individual's metabolism. The body burns fewer calories throughout the day when individuals are overly stressed. It is only a matter of time, then, before they gain a lot of weight when stress is causing them to eat a lot of food with a slower metabolism.

MORE FROM HealthPrep