“Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health”.
Most common cause for obesity is a combination of excessive food intake, genetics, and lack of physical activity. Sometimes obesity is simply caused by endocrine disorders, mental illness, medications or genes. The opinion that obese people can eat little and gain weight due to a slow metabolism is not generally supported.
In 2013 the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease.
Obesity has increasing rates in children and adults. It is more common in women than men. It is declared as one of the most serious public health problems in the 21st century, especially in the Western World, even though it was a symbol of fertility and wealth not so long time ago, known as the disease of the rich.
Morbidity and obesity
Many mental and physical conditions may be increased by obesity. Complications may occur directly or indirectly through mechanisms sharing a common cause like sedentary lifestyle or a poor diet. One of the strongest links between obesity and specific conditions is the link of diabetes type 2 with 77% of cases in women and 64% of cases in men. The consequences of obesity may be divided into two main categories: attributable to the increased number of fat cells (cancer, cardiovascular disease, not- alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes) and those attributable to the effects of increased fat mass (sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, social stigmatization). When it comes to the variety of conditions, obesity is associated with: high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, pulmonary embolism, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, menstrual disorders, birth defects, intrauterine fetal death, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, migraines, strokes, multiple sclerosis, dementia, depression, gout, low back pain, poor mobility, osteoarthritis, buried penis, chronic renal failure, erectile dysfunction, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, leukemia, malignant melanoma, colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, fatty liver disease, hirsutism, cellulitis, stretch marks, and so many more.
Day- to- day problems from obesity include: snoring, feeling isolated, low confidence and self- esteem, often feeling tired, increased sweating, breathlessness, difficulty doing physical activity. Also, psychological problems associated with obesity may affect your relationship with friends and family and may lead to depression.
Causes of obesity
The usual reason for obesity is a lack of physical activity and excessive food intake. Some cases point to other reasons for obesity like medical reasons, psychiatric illness or genetics. New studies provide evidence for more different causes of obesity like: assortative mating, natural selection, epigenetic risk factors, later- age pregnancy, proportional increases in age or ethnic groups that tend to be heavier, increased use of medications, decreased rates of smoking, decreased variability in ambient temperature, endocrine disruptors, insufficient sleep.
Obesity in the USA
From 1971 to 2000 obesity rates in the States increased more than 100% (from 14.5% to 30.9%). That also left a mark on the average amount of food energy consumed. For women, the average increase was 335 calories and for men 168 calories. And most of the extra food energy was acquired from increased sweetened beverages, carbohydrates and potato chips which now account for 25% of daily food energy in young adults in the States. The rising rates of obesity and increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes type 2 can be found in the consumption of soft drinks, iced tea, fruit drinks, energy and vitamin water drinks.
Also, the correlation between fast food consumption and obesity becomes more concerning. Between 1977 and 1995, the consumption of fast- food tripled, and the food energy income quadrupled. This has led to lower food prices in the States, including the main sources of processed foods, compared to vegetables and fruits.
Another significant role in obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. The new studies about the life quality suggest that people around the world get decreased activities that include moving and increased activities that include sitting. The main reason for that is the advancing of technology so labor- saving technology and increased use of mechanized transportation is the main link between less physical activity and more sitting. Also, some studies show an association between obesity in adults and children and television viewing time, which means- increased media exposure leads to increased rate of childhood obesity.
The other important part for obesity plays the genes. Like in many other conditions genetic and environmental factors are essential in forming the risk factors of obesity. When sufficient food energy is present, various genes controlling metabolism and appetite predispose to obesity. More than 41 sites in the human genome are linked to the development of obesity. Especially people with two copies of the FTO gene have a greater risk of obesity.
Obesity plays a main part in some syndromes like Prader- Will Syndrome, Cohen Syndrome, MOMO Syndrome and Bardet- Biedl Syndrome.
Visible patterns are concluded between the obesity in children with both parents obese- more than 80% of the children were obese. Because of the underlying genetics, the same environment doesn’t always lead to the same risk of obesity.
Other factors for obesity
As for the times in history, obesity was closely correlated with the social class- as higher the social status as higher the risk of obesity. But, because of the modern globalization process, social class is not that powerful risk factor for obesity as it used to although there can still be found a link for that assumption.
Smoking is known risk factor for obesity- quitting smoking has a significant effect on an individual weight.
In the USA there is a correlation between the number of children a person has and the risk of obesity. This conclusion comes from the fact that having dependent children decreases the physical activity in Western parents.
Stress is another risk factor for obesity- when under stress many people reach for food to compensate and that leads to storage of unneeded fats in the body.
Many agencies like the United States Preventive Task Force are trying to find a solution for this complex problem. First, they recommend screenings for all adults and second, behavioral interventions in those who are obese. To understand the environmental factors that lead to increasing the prevalence of obesity is of great importance. When it comes to the children, the solutions may be found it the federally reimbursed meal programs in schools, decreased access to sugar- sweetened beverages in schools and limiting direct junk food marketing to children. Also, efforts are made to increase access to parks and pedestrian routes in the newly constructed urban environments.
Another interesting development in the US is the obesity in the military. New facts show increasing numbers of overweight and obesity in the US military. As we mentioned before, many factors may lead to the risk of obesity, but when talking about the military, besides genes and environment, overweight and obesity could result from stress, irregular lifestyle when on a mission, weakened focus on fitness… Or maybe the military is reflecting the nation’s broader population whose poor eating habits are “fueling an alarming rise obesity rates?”
The main treatments for obesity are exercising and changes to diet.
Changes to diet and diet quality can be improved by increasing the intake of dietary fiber and decreasing the consumption of foods high in sugars and fat (energy- dense foods). If the improved diet gives no positive results, along with the suitable diet medications that can be prescribed to decrease fat absorption and to reduce appetite. If none of the above mentioned is effective, surgery or gastric balloon may be performed to reduce the bowel length or stomach volume, leading to a reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food or to feeling full earlier.
When obese, diet and exercising may do the trick…but the right way to do it is to change your lifestyle completely. The reason for that is even if you get to lose those pounds fast, maintaining the ideal body weight may be difficult. So, lower food energy diet should become a permanent part of your lifestyle.
If you are not sure which diet to choose, know this: low-carbohydrate diets appear better than low-fat diets for weight loss, on a short- term. But in a long term, all types of low fat or low carbohydrate diets are equally beneficial. If you are scared about the effect the diet has on your health, new study cases show that all the risks appear to be similar no matter the diet. When it comes to the cardiovascular health, a Mediterranean diet should lower the risk of heart disease.
One more thing about changing your lifestyle- you don’t need to go through the process alone, so search for some professional help and use an intensive behavioral counseling whenever you feel like you are “losing it”.
So, to sum, the best way to treat obesity in a natural way is to eat a reduced calories healthy diet and to exercise on regular basis. Eat a balanced, natural, healthy, low carb or low fat diet, approved by your weight loss management health professional; join a local weight loss support group; start the working out habit with easy jogging, running, swimming, tennis, and no more than 5 hours a week- after a while, when you feel you have left over energy, go for weight lifting, fast running, and other gym exercises, mountain climbing…; never overeat, and eat slowly and avoid eating fast food.
When it comes to medications, there are several that can be found in the States. Orlistat is the one that provides a modest weight loss (6.4lb from 1 to 4 years) but it is associated with gastrointestinal side effects and negative effects on the kidneys. Lorcaserin is strong medication providing 3% loss of the body weight over a year but it may cause problems with the heart valve. The combination of Topiramate and Phentermine may also be effective but it is connected with heart problems.
The most effective treatment for obesity is bariatric surgery, which is associated with long- term weight loss, decreased overall mortality and improvement in obesity- connected conditions.
What is BMI?
There is a difference between overweight and obese person. The BMI (body mass index) will tell you in which group you belong. BMI will also help you in terms of fat distribution (waist- hip ratio) and total cardiovascular risk factors. BMI is closely related to total body fat and percentage body fat. By definition, BMI is the subject’s weight divided by the square of their height, or: BMI= m/ h², where m is subject’s weight and h is subject’s height. The values that go from underweight to class III obesity were established by the World Health Organization and here are the numbers: 18.5 kg/m²= underweight; 18.5-25.0 kg/m²= normal weight; 25.0- 30.0 kg/m²= overweight; 30.0-35.0 kg/m²= class I obesity; 35.0-40.0 kg/m²= class II obesity and 40.0 kg/m² and above= class III obesity.
These values are accepted in the USA although they are different in other countries. For example, in Japan every value above 25.0 kg/m² is defined as obesity; In China obesity comes from 28.0 kg/m² and above.
If you are not sure about your BMI and where you belong concerning these values, you can always use an internet calculator like the one on here. You can add more information about yourself to get more accurate results. If your BMI is above 25.0 kg/m² make sure you read the guidance below to understand the situation you are in and the right way to deal with it.
Obesity and our pets
Very often, we give our pets more food than we should. In the US more than 41% of the pets are overweight and more than 5% are obese. There is a correlation between the owner and the pet, for example, the risk of obesity in dogs is related to whether or not their owners are obese. There is a saying: “Eat like an animal, not like a man”. For the animals’ natural instinct is to eat when they are hungry, and not when they like to taste something, or not while in front of the television… So, instead of you “spoil” your pet let it guide you through the world of healthy eating and healthy habits.