5 Causes of Obesity in America

A variety of factors have led to an obesity epidemic in the United States.
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Obesity is now epidemic in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of American adults were considered obese, which is having a body mass index higher than 30 as of 2010. Obesity rates are highest in Southern states and the Midwest. Conflicting information about exercise, the newest diets and the right food choices can make it difficult to discern the real causes of obesity in America. There are many contributing factors, but physicians and scientists agree on five major causes.


The average American leads a sedentary lifestyle compared with other countries. Because conveniences such as cars, cellphones, remote controls and fast food drive-throughs are widely accessible, the average adult gets regular exercise only if he plan its into his day. As life becomes more stressful and hectic and the economy declines, exercise gets pushed to the back burner in favor of longer work hours and a concurrent need for more rest.

Poor Food Choices

Though you may be well aware of what a balanced diet looks like, achieving one may prove more difficult than you would expect. Highly processed convenience foods carry hidden sodium, saturated fats and high-fructose corn syrup. Many busy families opt for fast food in which even their "healthy options" such as grilled chicken or salads are high in fat and sodium. Fresh and organic food cooked from scratch is expensive, time-consuming and requires planning, not a skill most adults have been taught. Restaurant and fast-food portions are so oversized that most Americans have no idea of what a healthy portion looks like. For example, a serving of cooked pasta is one-half cup. Most restaurants will serve a pasta portion at least three times bigger.


It's true that family genetics plays a role in the way you store fat and where it accumulates on your body. Genes alone do not mean you will be obese, but can cause certain obesity-related diseases such as Prader-Willi syndrome and Bardet-Beidl syndrome. Other behavioral factors such as activity levels and eating behaviors contribute to your weight, as well. Family lifestyles and eating patterns can significantly impact obesity. Immediate and extended families may have deeply established rituals of celebrating with food, overeating or consuming traditional foods that are high in fat, calories or simple carbohydrates.


Age can a determining factor in obesity. Older Americans become less active and lose muscle mass as they age. As body processes slow and become less efficient, it can be much harder to maintain a healthy weight, though it can be done with proper diet and exercise. The increase of childhood obesity -- 25 percent of American children are overweight or obese -- shows that with poor food choices and inactivity, obesity can occur even in young children.

Socioecomic Environment

Poverty and unsafe environments can be a cause of obesity. Lack of access to clean and safe spaces for recreation, the high price of fresh food and lack of access to stores that provide high-quality food can be linked to lower-income households.

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