Causes of Obesity in Men
It’s time to face up to what overeating and inactivity are doing to us
Can genes cause obesity in men? continued...
We all know a few men who can quaff and stuff it all in their wooden legs
and still weigh what they did in college. Some people are more predisposed to
gain more weight than others, and research indicates that gaining weight
rapidly as an infant is associated with a higher risk of adult obesity.
“We don’t know whether the weight gain in infancy is a cause of obesity, or
whether they are both controlled by the same gene or perhaps by cultural
practices,” says Nicolas Stettler, MD, MSCE, a professor of pediatrics at the
University of Pennsylvania. But it may well be that some of us developed
metabolic patterns in infancy that continue to influence our eating habits
But genes don’t explain the increase in obesity. “I think we can safely say
that at the end of the day, the cause of obesity is eating more than you need
for your physical activity,” says Stettler. “We eat more, and the availability
of more sedentary entertainment leads people to be more sedentary.”
Bigger portions breed bigger appetites which can lead to obesity
Men eat 70% more at a sitting than women do, Rolls tells WebMD. But, she
says, men are “the primordial eating machines.” They tend to listen to their
bodies more while women eat what they think they are supposed to eat.
The biggest change in eating habits, Rolls believes, is portion size, which
started growing in the 1970s in restaurants and recipe books. Then supersizing
really took off in the 1980s. It might seem logical to assume that when a
person eats a really big meal that person will back off on subsequent meals or
days. But Rolls’ research has shown this not to be the case.
At her laboratory, she feeds human test subjects large portion sizes without
telling them and observes how they respond. They respond by pigging out. Over a
period of 11 days, in a recent experiment, the overfed group sucked up 5,000
more calories than the “control” group, which was given healthy, complete meals
but with half the portion size.
Obviously, there are vested interests in favor of selling more food and
drink, even if that does help fuel the obesity epidemic. “From the popcorn
stand in movie theaters to fast food, we’ve been had by the most skilled
advertising people in the world,” says Blackburn. “They keep telling us that
it’s our right to be instantly gratified. Well, there’s a sucker born every
minute, and you’re a sucker to let yourself gain more than 20 pounds in 20
Fighting back: How bigger portions can be used to stem the rise in obesity
When it comes to finding solutions to the fat epidemic, Rolls has done some
pragmatic thinking. Her research told her that it would be difficult to
convince people to eat smaller meals. So what she has done is focused on
encouraging them to eat less energy-dense meals.