A diet packed with calories, sugar and processed foods has been blamed for causing the obesity epidemic, as people become increasingly stuck in the cycle of binge eating and exercise.
But researchers from the University of Michigan found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet is not the only culprit in the problem, with other factors, such as stress and depression, also having a role.
“We’ve known for years that a lot of these things are intertwined and you can’t avoid the relationship between them, but it was never as well studied as this,” said lead researcher Matthew R. Mankin, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology.
“If we really want to reduce the obesity pandemic, we have to address the underlying causes of it and not just the people at the top of the food chain.”
Dr Mankins team followed more than 4,000 people over 10 years, including 2,000 obese adults who were followed for seven years.
They found that people who were overweight or obese had a higher prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Dr Manks said the research showed that people with a high body mass index, which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared, had an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
“In fact, you’re more likely to have cardiovascular disease and obesity if you have a higher BMI,” he said.
“It’s a really important finding because it highlights the link between obesity and these diseases.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, which carried out the research, said the results were consistent with other research which found that overweight people who ate a high carbohydrate diet had a greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke.
“Our findings suggest that there is a direct relationship between high carbohydrate intake and type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome,” Dr Mankinos said.