What Causes Obesity?

image: pixabay

I had a friend, Pramod. He was an early riser and used to go for morning walk religiously every morning. But while coming back, he would never forget to gobble four samosas (triangular pastries with fillings like potatoes, onions and peas) and a full plate of jalebis (sweets made by deep-frying maida flour batter in circular shapes and then soaking in sugar syrup) at one of his favourite restaurants.

Samosa and jalebis

Eating too much and moving too little or not that much led to positive energy balance and weight gain and thus he invited various risks to health. But Pramod is not alone. We may come across a number of people who may be blamed for bringing in the current epidemic of obesity. Normally a person with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 is considered obese.

The question is whether only overeating causes obesity.  Higher the calorie intake, higher the obesity? Is it such a simple mathematical equation?

I came across a study, findings of which had been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It revealed that modern dietary patterns characterised by excessive consumption of foods with a high glycemic load was mainly responsible for causing obesity.

The study points out the flaws in the energy balance model (EBM) that asserts that all calories are alike for the body, and that body weight can’t change if intake and expenditure of energy are equal over time. When intake exceeds expenditure, it adds to body weight. It doesn’t explain the biological causes of weight gain.

The carbohydrate insulin model (CIM) claims that foods with high glycemic load carbohydrates produce hormonal changes that promote calorie deposition in adipose tissues, exacerbate hunger and lower energy expenditure.

Glycemic Index (GI) indicates how rapidly a specific carbohydrate food raises blood sugar. Most fruits, carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils etc are foods that have low GIs, while white rice, white bread, cakes, cookies, sweet treats, sweetened dairy products, chips, potatoes and fries have high GIs.

When we eat highly processed carbohydrates, the body increases insulin secretion. This in turn signals fat cells to store more calories leaving fewer calories for other muscles and tissues. The brain then perceives that the body is not getting enough energy that leads to the feelings of hunger. As a result, we eat more, as we tend to remain hungry despite gaining excess fat.

So instead of asking people to eat less, the focus should be on what they should eat. The issue is still open to further researches for coming to a conclusive evidence. But till then the old golden dictum of a good diet, exercise and a proper night’s sleep needs to be followed for a healthy life.

–Kaushal Kishore



  1. Very informative post, sir. Obesity is the new epidemic. “But while coming back, he would never forget to gobble four samosas and a plate full of jalebi.” I had to laugh 😄You are so right- such people are everywhere. I was very surprised to find out that India has a very very low obesity rate. I was stunned! It’s not possible at all. Anywhere I look in the streets, I only find fat, overweight people. Maybe malnourished people bring down the rate. Somehow, our obesity rate is surprisingly low.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes, Sahana, you must have seen the world ranking first that shows US at 42% and India at 4%, but according to a report published in Sage journals, prevalence of obesity in India is 40%. A study published in Lancet says India is just behind US and China in top 10 countries with highest number of obese people.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sahana for reading the post in depth and sharing your well considered opinion. Obesity is indeed a disease that needs to be addressed properly by individuals only, as it severely affects the overall health.


  2. Very good points you mention here. Beside the high and low GI, we have to remember that we can never out work a bad diet and harder than 45 mins of exercise is exercising control in what we eat during the entire day, every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you, Manu, we have to strike a balance, whether it is diet or exercise. We have seen health conscious people dying in India due to excessive exercise. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Let me start first with my first encounter with samosas; when I worked in London, one of my
    co-workers was Pandya. His mother gave him almost every day home made samosas, nothing as those in your photo, but simply divine in taste. I used to beg him to give me some in exchange for my vegetarian sarnies. For that reason my sympathy is with your friend.
    You are right in your advice, but I would add yoga, as the practicing yogi are always slim.
    Thank you, Kaushal !!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so pleased to know that you have tasted samosa. Now taste jalebi too, on your trip to India. I also like both, but occasionally, and in little quantities.
      I consider yoga as a part of exercise, but thank you so much, Joanna for pointing it out. Yoga is really very very effective.


    1. Both weight gain and loss? I think you are a meticulous person trying to be in the exact shape you wish to. Thank you for sharing your own experience.


      1. Lol. Not even. I am 5’1″ A few years ago, I was 95 lbs and couldn’t put on an ounce if my life depended on it. Now I weigh 150 lbs and can’t lose an ounce no matter what I do. 120 lbs would be perfect for me but I would settle for anything between 110 and 130 lbs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your case seems to be a little different. But reducing 20 to 30 lbs will not be difficult, if you follow crash diet course along with rigorous exercise. I’m not an expert, but I have seen people reducing their weights. My good wishes are with you!


      3. Thank you! I was doing both and ended up able to do minimal since my ‘rigorous exercise’ caused a major abdominal hernia. 🤦 Surgery is out of the question in Saskatchewan for the time being but eventually everything will sort itself out. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope Pramod is still your loving friend after reading this. But you’re right indeed about the food intake vs expenditure, maintaining balance, and consuming more of low GI foods. 👍🏾

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have been obese and thin. Either way, I have high cholesterol. Of late I started a new diet of mostly raw and natural foods (nothing processed). I reduced my cholesterol considerably (now borderline) and my skinny jeans are loose. It is very hard to eat too many apples or raw nuts or oatmeal. Good post KK.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really very happy for you that you exercised restraint and controlled cholesterol. That’s a great achievement, Kerry on the personal front. I appreciate your willpower and determination. Kudos to you, Kerry 👍👍💐💖

      Liked by 1 person

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