The Causes of Obesity, or Corpulence

Many persons inherit a predisposition to obesity. This is often seen in families in which parents exhibit a decided tendency to excessive corpulency. In some instances, all of the members of a family may be affected by it. It is also noticed that when the disease is manifested in parents at a particular age it is very likely to occur in children at or about the same period of life. As before mentioned, the disease seems to depend somewhat upon age, being much more frequent in early childhood, after forty years of age, and in females after change of life. The greater liability of females to this affection is noticed in infants as well as in adults. Those individual peculiarities which make up what is termed temperament also appear to have much to do with the causation of this disease, it being well known that phlegmatic or lymphatic people are much more liable to it than are those of an active, nervous temperament. The immediate or exciting causes of obesity are excesses in diet, deficient exercise, and morbid conditions of the system due to other diseases. Gluttony and laziness have long been recognized as the two great causes of obesity, so that it has become customary to regard an excessively fat man as one who has been given to the gratification of appetite and is of an indolent disposition. This does not, however, apply to women in that degree in which it is applicable to men, since, as before remarked, they are at a certain period of life liable to this disease independent of hereditary predisposition or of habits especially calculated to provoke its manifestation. There are, of course, exceptions also among men, and yet the general rule holds true in so 1arge a proportion of cases, that, as before remarked, a fat man is generally considered as one who is, or has been, an excessive eater, and has been given to habits of ease and luxury. As has been previously mentioned, obesity is an accompaniment, or possibly the result, of the morbid conditions present in several diseases named, but most frequently in chlorosis. Certain diseases of the lungs and heart also, in consequence of diminishing the elimination of the waste products of the system, produce a marked tendency to the accumulation of fat. The same may also be said with reference to what is known as Addison's, or the Bronze disease. With reference to the influence of diet in the production of this disease, it should be further explained that obesity is produced, not alone by the excessive use of fat, but by an excess of certain other kinds of food, particularly those of a fatty or carbonaceous character, as the development of fat is particularly favored by food of this class.

It is well known that animal fats when taken into the system are deposited with little change, and hence greatly favor the production of adipose tissue. It has not been thoroughly proven that starch, sugar, or gluten is converted into fat in the system; but there can be no doubt that these substances supply the place of the material which otherwise would be consumed, but, in consequence of the substitution, may be converted into fat, so that they become indirectly, if not directly, the cause of excessive fatness when taken in large proportions. The obesity of children is not infrequently due to artificial feeding, the food given being of such a character as to produce fat in disproportion to the amount of muscular tissue formed.