What Causes Weight Loss?

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

26th February 2020

The Factors and Process of Losing Weight

People in more affluent countries like ours tend to view intentional weight loss as a healthy decision. However, deciding to lose weight requires discipline and dedication so a clear understanding of obesity and what causes weight loss or gain is a must.

As obesity in the UK rises, the incidence of chronic diseases related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, also rises. These are known as “lifestyle diseases” because they are frequently caused by habits like eating food high in calories, sugar, salt, and saturated fats.

The Socioeconomic Impact of Obesity

Obesity is on the rise in the UK according to research by Diabetes UK

When a high-calorie diet is combined with minimal physical activity, the result can be potentially disastrous not only for the individual but for society in general. Morbidity due to obesity has an impact on economic productivity and also puts a strain on the healthcare system.

In the UK, around 13 million people are considered obese, according to a November 2019 report by Diabetes UK. The NHS also reported an increase of 220% on the bill for antidiabetic medications over the past decade.

The correlation between obesity and diabetes is not merely coincidental but has a cause-and-effect relationship. The rising number of Britons with diabetes is so alarming that it is now considered a public health crisis.

A Multipronged Approach to Addressing the Obesity Crisis

Treating obesity-related chronic illnesses is not sufficient to solve the problem – it only solves the symptoms of the root problem. Solving the overall issue must involve a holistic approach that includes prevention by changing lifestyle and stopping unhealthy habits. Before resorting to pills, people should first try diet and exercise.

Foods high in saturated fat and calories, such as burgers and chips, can contribute to weight gain

A holistic approach emphasises natural means of losing weight. The range of treatments may vary but could include alternative medicines such as acupuncture. On the other hand, surgical options such as bariatric surgery can be considered in extreme cases.

Less invasive and indirect approaches can also be used, which includes public health education and food regulations. The problem is now so large (no pun intended) that it will require a multi-pronged strategy.

Do Weight Loss Pills Work?

People who do not have enough time or patience to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen may resort to weight loss pills. Some people may also take these as supplements to their diet and exercise. Some pill brands have a lot of hype, but could be dangerous or may not work. However, there are some pills that might have positive effects on weight loss. 

Weight loss pills may have a variety of active ingredients but they basically have similar mechanisms. Pills may act on some of these biological factors:

  • Metabolic pathway for consuming glucose
  • Metabolic pathway for converting excess energy into fats and glycogen
  • Neurochemical reactions for food appetite
  • Digestive processes of breaking down food and excreting waste

Diet pills can either be regulated prescription drugs like sibutramine (Meridia), diethylpropion (Tenuate), and phentermine (Adipex-P) or over-the-counter drugs like Dexatrim and Zantrex-3. Some diet pills are herbal supplements that are not as potent as the regulated ones.

Prescription diet pills can be dangerous because they interfere with the normal functioning of the brain to suppress food appetite. Some can cause depression and sleep disorders. Illicit drugs like cocaine have similar effects on brain chemistry. Other herbal-based diet pills might trigger faster metabolism and fat burning.

These are some of the most well-known weight loss pills in the market, sold in various brands. Some are prescription pills while others are over-the-counter pills considered as supplements:

  • Alli (orlistat)
  • Caffeine
  • Glucomannan
  • Garcinia cambogia extract
  • Pyruvate
  • Green tea extract
  • Conjugated linoleic acid
  • Hydroxycut

How Does Water Help With Weight Loss?

The human body needs water for maintaining cellular integrity and facilitating various metabolic processes. Hence, drinking the right amount of water daily is essential to your health and can help you reduce your weight.

Drinking water helps reduce weight by making your stomach feel full, so you eat less food. Large amounts of water in the digestive system also reduce the acidity of the stomach, making it more difficult to digest fats and absorb them in the guts.

Additionally, it can help you burn calories more efficiently because you will probably end up drink fewer sugary beverages. According to one study, obesity incidence was reduced by 31% among students in schools that participated in a weight loss challenge by increasing the amount of water they drank.

What Triggers Weight Loss?

Weight loss can be due to a decrease in body fluid or reduction of muscle mass or fat. There are several possible underlying causes such as a physical or psychological illness or intentional weight loss. Weight loss happens when the body burns more energy by being active rather than using that energy (or those calories) to build tissue or store fats and glycogen.

What you eat can cause weight loss

Many types of diseases can directly cause weight loss. For instance, diabetes is a chronic disease that can cause weight loss by reducing the efficiency of the cells to use and absorb glucose.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a very low level of insulin production, which reduces glucose metabolism. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes is the increased resistance of the cells to insulin and sugar absorption. In either case, sugar is not absorbed by the cells and is excreted instead.

On the other hand, weight loss can also be the result of a psychological illness like anorexia nervosa. A person with anorexia believes that they are too fat. Therefore, they gradually eat less and eventually stop eating. Without proper medical and psychiatric intervention, a person suffering from anorexia may die from literally starving themselves.

Weight loss, of course, can also be purposeful and reasonable. An exercise regimen can help you lose weight by burning more calories. When combined with a healthy diet rich in fibre and protein but low in carbs, certain types of exercise can also shape your body, making it more muscular or at least lean.

Is Cardio Good For Weight Loss?

Running, like all cardio exercise, can contribute to weight loss

The type of exercise that is best for you to lose excess body fat will depend on several factors such as sex and age. Your health status and physical conditions are also important. Not all types of cardio exercises are good for losing weight for all individuals.

Short high-intensity cardio exercises like interval training can be better for weight loss than one-hour steady-state cardio like walking on a treadmill. 

Can Stress Cause Weight Loss?

Emotional stress can cause weight loss if you lose your appetite or perhaps become depressed. But equally, some people gain more weight when emotionally stressed because of stress eating.

Some people try to cope with stress by binge eating. However, stress can also be managed by regular simple exercise like brisk walking or cycling. Making it a habit to incorporate workouts into your week on a regular basis can help reduce stress while keeping your weight balanced. 

The Chemical Reaction Of Weight Loss

As biological aerobic (breathing) organisms, we humans utilise oxygen to “burn” energy in a slow but very efficient manner. In its simplest form, weight loss is simply the reduction of an energy-rich molecule like sugar or fat into water and carbon dioxide.

For example, a fat molecule can be reduced into simpler molecules in this manner:

C55H104O6 + 78 O2 🡪 55 CO2 + 52 H2

Losing weight is a biochemical process that can be made faster with a balanced diet and exercise. There is no one-size-fits-all regimen as the biological needs and capabilities of individuals vary, so it’s important to customise your own weight loss program.


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