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Ponderer983's avatar

Why is obesity so prevalent in the human species but doesn't seem to be in other animal species?

Asked by Ponderer983 (6406points) April 12th, 2010

Obesity we all know is a big problem now, and I was wondering about humans compared to other animal species. You don’t tend to see overweight giraffes or birds etc. They have just as easy access to food as we do, especially those that eat mostly vegetation. So what is it in the human species that we can’t just eat to be satisfied like other animals, instead we eat and become overweight?

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21 Answers

Judi's avatar

My dog is pretty fat.
Wild animals have to work for their food.

sleepdoc's avatar

Because unlike the rest of the animal kingdom we have made our lives require less physical effort and provided ourselves with much more than we can ever eat. We don’t have to hunt or gather anymore and most of us work by sitting or standing somewhere.

Blackberry's avatar

Other animals do not have an overabundance of food…...The only animals that are fat are the ones humans own.

trailsillustrated's avatar

er Ive seen some really overweight dogs and cats

janbb's avatar

They generally have to spend most of their time finding their food; it isn’t readily available and it isn’t processed. Companion animals, the ones that we provide the food for, often are overweight.

marinelife's avatar

We were designed biologically to go through times of feast (when we would fatten up) and famine. Sort of like bears who gain weight to hibernate. Thus, in abundant times, we are designed to gain weight.

Ponderer983's avatar

@trailsillustrated I’m not talking about the pets humans feed, it’s more about animals out in the wild
@janbb I didn’t think about the food being processed.
I don’t know…it just seems as though an animal like a cow could eat all the grass it wants, but to their standards, they don’t get “fat”

alive's avatar

their food is natural. our food is not natural. Most of the food we eat is tampered with during its production. Unprocessed food are the healthiest, and that is what animals eat.

****high fructose corn syrup makes up the majority of every food you can buy at the grocery store.

try netflixing the movie Food Inc.

alive's avatar

@Ponderer983 example of a processed food American Cheese, like kraft singles. non-processed food: apple, and any other raw, not packaged fruits and veggies

dpworkin's avatar

Given sufficient resources and diminished competition animals will become obese.

nikipedia's avatar

<———My cat is huge.

kevbo's avatar

This is a unique time in history for having excess food calories readily available. Fewer people (farmers) than ever before are producing more food calories—every farmer in the U.S., for example, feeds 150 million people. And, people can obtain a full day’s worth of calories (2,000 to 3,000 calories) for an hour’s worth of labor at minimum wage. Foods are also engineered not only for higher calorie content, but to leverage our natural cravings for sugar and fat, which are much more rare in the “natural” world.

Part of this trend is the result of a nationwide effort to solve the problem of hunger, which was prevalent (especially among rural poor) as recently as 50 years ago. Part of it is just the inertia of agribusiness, which, for example, has precipitated the subsidizing of corn because it is one of the most calorie dense foods on the planet.

I would also argue that urban sprawl and automobile-centric planning is a culprit. That is quite obvious if you compare people who inhabit a pedestrian friendly city with people who live in that city’s surrounding suburbs.

Cows aren’t the greatest example, since they are mainly bred to gain weight, but a cow raised on grass generally has to walk around to get the grass (which it is designed to digest). A cow that is fed (high calorie) corn is generally kept in a pen and fed to deliberately fatten it. Cows don’t naturally eat corn, so they get sick and require antibiotics while they are being fattened.

plethora's avatar

@alive That movie is excellent, as is Fast Food Nation.

kevbo's avatar

@nikipedia, that’s a little personal.

davidk's avatar

@dpworkin
Is correct…as he usually is.

I want you to imagine this for a moment:

The only animals that are significantly overweight are those who “sally up to the trough.”
These are domesticated animals, who are not given food that they would naturally eat in the wild.
Why is a cow fat, if it is fat? Because it eats grains when naturally they’d be feeding on grasses.
We don’t have troughs. But we do have refrigerators and boxes upon boxes of sugar laden, unhealthy-carb-packed foods.
Having lived in France, Switzerland, St. Lucia and the US, I have noticed 2 simple things:
1. The larger the average refrigerator, the fatter the people are on average. (The converse is obviously true as well)
2. The more plastic wrappers and boxes involved in food choices, the fatter the people are on average.”

lilikoi's avatar

Wild animals have to work for their food.

We sit at a desk in front of a computer and drive around picking up processed food.

Isn’t it obvious?

josie's avatar

An abundance of cheap food, lack of motion due to mechanization and industrialization.

anartist's avatar

Humans are alone in their ability to choose whatever they want to eat from all over the world just by handing a cashier a card or some money and how much they want to eat is not limited by available natural resources. Note that pet animals are also fatter than stray animals, and that impoverished and homeless people do not tend to be fat.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Your example of the cow proves an interesting point. They may seem to eat all day, but grass and such are not very nutritional when compared to other foods like meat. Because of this, herbivores must spend pretty much all their day eating because otherwise they wouldn’t get enough energy.

Wild animals on the whole, as others have stated, spend pretty much all their time searching for food. Animals in the wild are basically starving all the time, getting only enough food to survive – usually not much extra. Aside from reproducing, finding a steady supply of food is the most important part of ensuring your genes will survive for the next generation.

Humans lived like this for thousands of years until large-scale civilization developed. Really, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution and the mass-production of food that they everyday person had the opportunity to become overweight. Thanks to fast food chains and the increasing leisure time available to people – not to mention the electronics that make more and more leisure time spent in sedentary activities – obesity has begun to thrive.

mattbrowne's avatar

The reward system in the human brain is far more powerful. Animals usually don’t smoke cigarettes either, although some rats get into the habit if they’ve got the opportunity.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Animals eat more for surival and less for pleasure.
Humans eat more for pleasure and less for survival.

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