Obesity is a major problem in today’s world. It gives room for a number of debilitating medical conditions. It is also a leading cause of mortality that could be prevented. But what does it mean to be obese? What can lead to it, how can it impact on your health, and how do manage it? Continue reading to learn more.
What is obesity?
One can simply say excessive buildup of fat or body weight is obesity. But another question that could come up is: how much body fat or weight can be said to be too much? The body mass index (BMI) is the main tool to which recourse is made in determining how much is too much.
The BMI is a simple measure that compares your body weight to your height. It is your weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). The World Health Organization (WHO) uses this measure to categorize adult body weight as follows:
- Normal weight – 18.5 to 24.9 kilograms per meter square
- Overweight – 25 to 29.9 kilograms per meter square
- Obese – 30 kilograms per meter square and above
So you have a problem of obesity if your BMI is above 30. The higher the score, the more severe the condition is considered to be. There are classes I-III of obesity.
For children, the existence of this problem is determined based on age and often with reference to the WHO Child Growth Standards median. There are specific methods for calculating for children under five and those older.
However, BMI is sometimes not relied on singly in diagnosing obesity. Another form of evaluation that may be done is measurement of waist circumference. This is because the weight considered for BMI may not necessarily be due to fat buildup in the body. It could be as a result of muscle bulk.
Men who have waist circumference of roughly 37 inches are obese. In the case of women, those with a measure of around 32 inches on this scale have obesity issues.
The most obvious problem obese individuals have has to do with body image. In addition to this, they often have issues such as:
- Feeling of being left out
- Low self-esteem or confidence
- Difficulty breathing
- Joint or back pain
The rising epidemic Of Obesity
At some points in history, obesity was considered a sign of good living. It was associated to people who were wealthy. This is not exactly the case anymore. It is now widely seen as an indicator of unhealthy living.
But the wealth influence appears to still old true today. The rate of occurrence is especially high in developing countries, such as the United States and Australia. Yet, it is still increasing rather rapidly. Almost 2 in every 5 American adults were estimated to be obese as of 2014.
The rising incidence of obesity made WHO to classify it as a worldwide epidemic in 1997. The organization’s figures show that more than 600 million adults across the globe were obese, as of 2014. A total of more than 1.9 billion individuals aged 18 and above were deemed overweight. It was observed that the problem was more common among women.
This issue is not a concern for only developed countries, though. Developing ones, except most of those in sub-Saharan Africa, are experiencing rising incidence as well. In the period from 1980 to 2014, WHO disclosed that cases of obesity more than doubled worldwide. A prediction by the world body is that obesity and overweight may soon replace infectious diseases and malnutrition as the leading health concerns.
Obesity in children
Children are not exempted from the obesity epidemic. There is also a rise in the number of cases in this group, driven mainly by greater exposure to the media and the Internet. Numerous studies have observed a correlation between this increased exposure and having excessive fat buildup.
Flynn et al observed in a 2006 review that incidence of obesity among boys in Canada jumped from 11 percent in the ’80s to more than 30 percent in the ’90s. This exposes more children to greater health issues, especially as adults, given obesity usually persists over time.
But obesity in children is also no longer a problem exclusive to high-income countries. Those in low- and middle-income countries are also being affected in greater number. These can typically be found in urban areas in such places. Flynn and colleagues also observed that rate of childhood obesity in Brazil rose significantly from 4 percent in the ’80s to 14 percent in the ’90s.
The problems of under nutrition and obesity have been observed side by side in low and middle income countries with childhood obesity challenge. In addition to not having adequate nutrition, children there are fed with high-carb and high-fat foods. This sort of diet allows more room for fat to build up in the body.
What causes body fat accumulation?
Your choice of foods and level of physical activity mainly determine how likely you are to becoming obese. However, there are other factors that may play a role in this regard.
Diet – This is arguably the most prominent factor in the occurrence of fat buildup. There has been a surge in the consumption of foods with high calorie content. According to World Resources Institute data, food energy availability per day for each individual rose between early 1970s and late 1990s practically worldwide, with the exception of Eastern Europe.
This trend has defied the more widespread availability of guidelines on nutritional requirements. Life on the fast lane makes it practically impossible for many people to prepare nutritious meals. As calorie intake increases, vitamin D levels continue to slide. This contributes to worsen the obesity epidemic.
Sedentary lifestyle – The problem of poor diet is compounded by a less active lifestyle. More and more people spend most of their active hours in a seat. They move around less frequently and do not create time for physical exercise. This reduction in level of activity makes it hard to burn off fat from foods consumed.
People spend less and less of their free time engaged in physical activity, according to WHO. In-seat entertainment has become more preferable for leisure. Also, research shows a significant shift to less physically tasking jobs. Of the total world population, 30 percent or more do not get adequate exercise, according to WHO.
Genetics – To a lower degree, your genes may be a factor. Scientists say polymorphisms in genes that regulate appetite and metabolism could make some people prone to obesity. For example, individuals who had two FTO gene copies have been observed to weigh extra 3-4 kg than those without them.
Medical conditions – It is also possible for you to become obese from certain disorders. These include:
- Eating disorders
- Growth hormone deficiency
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Low Levels of IGF-1
These medical conditions, and others, may not lead to obesity if properly managed.
You should also note that obesity may occur as a result of medications used in treating these disorders. Drugs that are known to be potentially knotty include antidepressants, steroids, anticonvulsants, and insulin.
Health risks of obesity
This disturbing body fat buildup is said to be a factor in a number of medical conditions, some of which can be rather scary. These can have physical or mental dimension. They include:
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
- Fertility problems
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Coronary heart disease
- Some forms of cancer
There are still other diseases and disorders that have been linked to obesity. This explains why it is considered a leading cause of preventable deaths across the globe. Estimates have it that it is a factor in up to 365,000 deaths in the United States alone every year. It is also estimated that the condition lowers life expectancy by between 3 and 10 years on average, depending on severity.
How do you guard against obesity?
Treatment or management of excessive fat accumulation in the body requires doing correctly things that were done wrong in the first place.
Diet – We come back again to the issue of foods you eat. If high calories and fat causes you to gain weight, you should work to reduce these. Maintain a balanced diet with optimal calorie content. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, will help. Research indicates you are likely to benefit more by reducing calories instead of fat, at least in the short-term. A nutrition expert can provide proper guidance on what to eat.
Increased physical activity – Try to get out of your seat or chair every so often to walk around. Use the stairs, if possible, instead of elevators. These might look less likely to be of any use. But the improvement can add up when done on a consistent basis.
You should make effort to get more exercise. Join a gym or a weight loss group in your area. It is not a must that you engage in a highly physically demanding routine, although that will greatly help more. Jogging, swimming or brisk walking done for an average of about 180 minutes a week can be beneficial.
Medications – There are also drugs that are used for dealing with obesity. These include orlistat, liraglitude, lorcaserin, naltrexone-bupropion, and phentermine-topiramate. Research shows that these medications may help you lose up to 6.7 kg a year. However, as is commonly the case, they also have their side effects.
Surgery – Some researchers have suggested bariatric surgery as the most efficacious treatment for obesity. There are different types of procedures that may be used for getting rid of body fat. This surgery is said to not only help to promote weight loss, but also has lower risk of mortality from all causes.
Obesity can predispose you to frightening medical conditions capable of shortening lifespan. The best thing to do is to avoid having excessive fat buildup in your body by all means possible. But if you already have the disorder, determination and persistence will be important in getting rid of it. Observe healthy eating habits and exercise regularly. You might observe you are not losing significant amount of weight. But what looks negligible can make considerable difference in your risk of suffering life threatening disorders.