Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation in our body that presents a risk to our health.
It happens due to energy imbalance within our body. If the energy we intake through our diets become in excess than our energy expenditure (through physical activity), our body stores that excess energy in the form of fat.
With the regular accumulation of fat, we tend to gain weight over and over and may become obese.
There are several classification and definitions for degrees of obesity are accepted. The most widely accepted classification are those from World Health Organisation (WHO), based on body mass index (BMI).
The WHO designations are as follow:
- Grade 1 overweight (commonly and simply called overweight) – BMI of 25-29.9 kg/m2
- Obesity (Grade 2 overweight) – BMI of 30-39.9 kg/m2
- Grade 3 overweight (commonly called severe or morbid obesity) – BMI ≥40 kg/m2
Some authorities advocate a definition of obesity based on percentage of body fat, as follows:
- Men: Percentage of body fat greater than 25%, with 21-25% being borderline
- Women: Percentage of body fat great than 33%, with 31-33% being borderline
What is Body Mass Index?
Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).
What is in this article?
- WHO Statistics on Obesity
- Obesity is the mother of all diseases
- Cause of Obesity
- Prevention of Obesity
- Frequently Asked Questions
WHO Statistics on Obesity
According to Global Burden of Disease Study, the issue of obesity has grown to epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying each year as result of being overweight or obese in 2017.
Rates of overweight and obesity continue to grow in adults and children. From 1975 to 2016, the prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents aged 5–19 years increased more than four-times from 4% to 18% globally.
In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2018.
Non-Communicable diseases (NCD) are the leading cause of death around the world. Obesity is now a target identified by the World Health Organisation along with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. In many countries, in both the developed and the developing world, obesity rates within the past 30 years have tripled or more.
Obesity is the mother of all diseases
Obesity is not just a weight problem. It is a chronic condition and serious global epidemic and is a significant burden to healthcare system.
It is a disease with a risk factor for number of associated complications and comorbidities. These includes Pulmonary disease, Non-alcoholic fatty lever disease, Gall bladder disease, Pancreatitis, Stroke, Hypertension, Cataracts, Type 2 diabetes, Osteoarthritis, some cancers and many more diseases.
Numerous studies have also established a negative correlation between obesity and mental health of a person. It may be a risk factor for depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Let us talk a little bit more about how obesity contributes to some of the major chronic diseases.
Obesity is among the leading causes of elevated cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and morbidity. According to studies, the increase in body mass index (BMI) results in the increase of rates of CVD and high blood pressure.
The excess energy which is not stored in our peripheral adipose tissue could potentially go to the fat surrounding our heart. The fact is this epic cardio fat around the heart transmits immunological signalling and endocrinopathic signalling that contributes to atherosclerosis and cardiac dysfunction.
Obesity causes an increased risk for at least 13 types of cancers.
Research shows that excess body fat increases the risk for several cancers, including colorectal, uterine, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic cancers.
It probably also increases the risk of ovarian cancer, advanced prostate cancer, gallbladder cancer, and gastric cardia cancer.
Provided with limited evidence exactly how being obese increases these risk, experts believe it is largely due to the inflammation caused by visceral fat – the fat that surrounds our vital organs.
High amounts of estrogen produced by fat tissue which can drive the development of some cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancer. Fat cells may affect processes that regulate cancer cell growth.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. This accounts for approximately 90% of diabetes cases.
In obese individuals, the amount of non-esterified fatty acids, glycerol, hormones, cytokines, pro-inflammatory markers, and other substances that are involved in the development of insulin resistance, is increased.
People with Type 2 diabetes can produce some of their own insulin, but it’s often not enough or the body’s cells do not respond to it. As a result of this insulin resistance, glucose (blood sugar) builds up in the body, leading to high blood sugar.
Cause of Obesity
As discussed earlier, the excess of energy intake from food sources than the energy expenditure lead to fat storage in our body which causes weight gain and thus obese.
Our cells converts the excess energy and stores them as fat. Initially, fat cells increase in size. When they can no longer expand, they increase in number. If you lose weight, the size of the fat cells decreases, but the number of cells does not.
Obesity, however, has various causes such as genetic, hormones, psychological factors, environmental factors etc. But the most common factor associated with obesity is poor diet and high intake of simple sugars, physical inactivity and improper lifestyle.
Prevention of Obesity
Overweight and obesity, as well as their comorbidities are largely preventable. The adaptation of healthier diet and regular physical activity are the easiest choice to prevent from being obese.
At the individual level, one can limit energy intake from fat and sugars and increase consumption of vegetarian diet such as fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts.
Keep engage in regular physical activity for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (walking, cycling, swimming, dancing) or 75 minutes of high intensity (running, team sports, fast cycling) physical activity.
Even though regular aerobic exercise is the most efficient way to burn calories and shed excess weight, any extra movement helps burn calories.
Of special interest to women who have gained weight after having a baby is the fact that breastfeeding helps you shed some extra pounds. Besides the positive effects for the baby, breastfeeding burns approximately 500 extra calories each day.
Obesity is now a global epidemic with large number of people being obese around the world. It is not just a weight gain but a severe health condition which can lead to various chronic and major diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc. You should consume a healthy diet and regular exercise to keep your body weight in control. You should maintain a healthy lifestyle in all stages of life thus you will not tend to become obese.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unfortunately, obesity does run in families. However, more than genetic it is environmental factor on which your upbringing is done. The kind of food and exercise habits you developed while growing up influence more on the likelihood of obesity rather than from your genes.
According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, Benign obesity is a term sometimes used to describe a condition in which someone is overweight or obese but does not suffer from any other co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension.
Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that re-shapes and smooths the body by removing unwanted deposits of excess fat. However, it is not a substitute for diet and physical activity and is not a treatment for obesity.
There are weight loss medications or supplements available but you should consume it only if prescribed by the doctor. If you use it incorrectly without a prescription, then it can be harmful and may interact with other medications or medical conditions.