Is There a Molecular Base of Obesity?

Is There a Molecular Base of Obesity?
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Obesity is a medical condition reaching epidemic status in the United States. Many people feel obesity is simply caused by poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, but science feels there could be another cause. It is believed that there could be a molecular base of obesity that many do not consider. It is important to thoroughly investigate all possible causes of obesity because approximately every one in three American adults in the United States is considered obese.

What is Obesity?

A formula involving height and weight is used to determine whether or not someone is obese. This formula is referred to as the body mass index, or just BMI. The following table uses body mass index to assess obesity and other weight problems:

  • BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight
  • BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight
  • BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 is considered overweight
  • BMI between 30.0 and 39.9 is considered obese
  • BMI of 40.0 and higher is considered morbidly obese

Those who are considered obese can experience the following symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sleep apnea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Infection or rash in skin folds
  • Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Snoring
  • Pain in joints or back
  • Always feeling hot
  • Becoming out of breath when exertion is minor
  • Depression

Common Causes of Obesity

Several things can cause a person to become obese and it is often a combination of things. The most common causes of obesity include:

  • Inactivity: Living a sedentary lifestyle and not burning as many calories as consumed can contribute to obesity.
  • Pregnancy: Women will naturally gain some weight during their pregnancy. However, some women gain too much and/or do not lose their pregnancy weight once they deliver their baby.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can cause people to gain weight. Some of the most common medications that can cause weight gain include, certain antidepressants, diabetes medications, steroids, anti-seizure medications, anti-psychotic medications, and beta blockers.
  • Unhealthy eating habits and poor diet: Eating a high calorie diet, skipping breakfast, eating the majority of your calories at night, fast food, and high-calorie drinks can all lead to obesity.
  • Lack of sleep: Hormone levels can change when we do not get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, every night. These hormonal changes can result in an increased appetite, and cravings for high-carbohydrate and high-calorie foods.
  • Medical problems: Certain medical conditions can cause obesity because of the changes they make to the body or how the symptoms they cause physically affect the patient. Some of these conditions include Prader-Willi syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, or arthritis.

Molecular Base of Obesity

Researchers at several different institutions, such as the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, believe that the Bsx molecule may be the key to battling obesity and feel that there is a molecular base for obesity. This molecule, found in the hypothalamus of the brain, is necessary for spontaneous physical activity, such as food intake and fidgeting, two factors that are essential in maintaining a healthy body weight. When someone is hungry, their spontaneous activity heightens, giving them the motivation to go out and get something to eat.

In a mice study, those who were lacking the Bsx molecule, were far lazier than the normal mice. These mice had very little desire to exercise, or do much moving at all. The differences in Bsx activity amongst different people could aid in explaining why some people are less vulnerable by diet-associated obesity and why some are inherently more active than others.

This information, and the studies concerning, are being conducted in hopes of finding a solid link between the Bsx molecule and obesity. Once this is done, scientists are hoping to turn the Bsx molecule into a drug target and continue research about how it may be successful in modulating basic physical activity to help protect individuals against diet-induced obesity.


Science Daily. (2007). Uncovering the Molecular Basis of Obesity. Retrieved on June 20, 2010 from Science Daily:

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Obesity. Retrieved on June 20, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic:

Image Credits

Representation of a Molecule: TomasBat – Wikimedia Commons