- ‘Health is wealth’. So say the wise. It is true that health is of utmost importance to live a happy, fulfilling life. It is said that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and vice versa.
But in today’s times a major health risk is obesity around the world. This malady has cut across all age barriers and has spread its tentacles all over the globe. As a result, not only adults but even children and teenagers are afflicted with this problem.
What is Obesity: Obesity around the world is determined by weight that is more than the prescribed level of body weight which is considered healthy. It is the excess amount of unhealthy body fat.
Obesity is best defined by a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index). It is calculated by using a person’s height and weight- weight in kg (kilograms) divided by height in meters squared. An adult with a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is obese. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 among adults is considered normal.
Causes of adult obesity around the world:-
The two leading causes of obesity around the world are Inactivity and Unhealthy food habits. There are various other factors too that contribute to this malaise.
Inactivity: Leading sedentary life style can have the most adverse effect on your health. Many people these days have desk jobs where they spend hours together without any physical activity. At home too, people like to spend time sitting in front of the television or the computer. Gadgets rule our lives nowadays and we have forgotten the simple pleasures of spending time outdoors. When physical activity is nil, all the calories that we consume are not burned by our bodies. As a result energy provided by our food gets stored in our bodies in the form of fat.
Unhealthy food Habits: No one gains weight overnight. It happens over time as a result of poor diet habits. In fact poor diet habit is a major cause of obesity around the world.
Eating out: With families becoming nuclear where both parents are working, eating out frequently has become the norm of the day. The generous amount of oil/butter added to our food in the restaurants get stored in our bodies as fat when we consume them. Moreover the sugary drinks or desserts that we tend to order with our food also help us in consuming some empty, extra calories. So, eating out is also a contributor to the obesity around the world.
Eating larger portions: We tend to overeat at parties or when we are with our friends and relatives. We lose track of what we are eating and simply pop into our mouths whatever comes our way. Sometimes you are encouraged to eat more if your relatives are eating larger portions.
Too much alcohol consumption: Alcohol contains a whole lot of calories and if you are a habitual drinker then you are sending open invitations to calories to be stored inside your body in the form of fat.
Binge eating: At times, when you are feeling low you tend to find solace in food. This kind of binge eating adds to your calorie consumption. Binge eating tends to increase when people skip breakfast.
If bad eating habits run in your family then you continue with the same food habits into your adulthood.
Genetics: Quite often you hear people saying ‘it runs in my genes’ and so gaining weight can’t be helped. It’s true that certain genetic conditions can cause obesity around the world. These are like the Prader-Willi syndrome. But otherwise there’s no reason why you cannot lose weight even if you have inherited certain genetic traits from your family. Most often weight issues are directly related to environmental factors like poor eating habits learned in childhood.
Medical reasons: Sometimes certain underlying medical conditions lead to weight gain too. They are:
an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) – where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones.
Cushing’s syndrome – a rare disorder that causes the over-production of steroid hormones.However, if these conditions are diagnosed and properly treated, they do not much hamper the weight loss process.
OTHER CAUSES OF OBESITY AROUND THE WORLD
According to an international group of scientists obesity cannot be entirely pinned down on the two causes of inactivity and wrong food habits only. There are other reasons as well that have not been researched as much as the two abovementioned factors.
“But we’re paying too much attention to the “big two,” argue David B. Allison, PhD, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical nutrition research center, and his colleagues.
“The importance of the big two is accepted as established, and other putative factors are not seriously explored,” they argue. “The result may be well-intentioned but ill-founded proposals for reducing obesity rates.”
Allison and his colleagues have suggested ten other possible causes of obesity. Their article appears in the online edition of the International Journal of Obesity. According to Allison and his colleagues even if some of these causes have only a small effect, they may interact with our bodies in such a way that their individual effects may be greatly magnified.
The Alabama group puts forth these 10 additional causes of obesity.
Sleep Deprivation: Not getting enough sleep leads to an increase in one’s weight. People these days do not complete their quota of sleep.
Decreased smoking: Smoking reduces weight. Hence people who stop smoking tend to gain weight.
Pollution: Since hormones control our body weight, their action is hampered when certain pollutants affect these hormones.
Population age, ethnicity: According to Allison and his colleagues middle aged people and Hispanic –Americans tend to be obese as compared to European-Americans.
Air Conditioning: You need to burn calories if you live in an environment which is too hot or too cold. But most offices and many homes are temperature-controlled. Hence no calories are being burnt.
Side effects of medicines: Certain medicines like corticosteroids, medication for epilepsy and diabetes, medication for treating mental illness like the antidepressants and medicines for contraceptives, schizophrenia and blood pressure medicines can lead to weight gain.
Older Moms: There’s some evidence that the older a woman is at the time of giving birth the greater the chances are of the child becoming obese.
Ancestor’s Environment: Environmental changes that made a grandparent obese even two generations back may have a role to play in the obesity of the current generation.
Obesity linked to Fertility: Some evidences show that obese people are more fertile than lean people. If obesity has a genetic component as studies say, then the number of obese people should be more.
Union of Obese Spouses: When both spouses are obese, their offspring tends to be obese.
Causes of Obesity among Children:
Obesity is on the rise among children too. Dr.Anoop Mishra, Director, department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Fortis Hospital in a seminar organized in Delhi highlighted the alarming rise of childhood obesity. He attributed the “multinational fast food giants as responsible for having pushed India to the threshold of childhood obesity and an entire generation of disease prone youth.’
Multiple factors combined together lead to children becoming overweight. Some of them are:
Diet: Consuming too much of fast foods, fried snacks, fruit juices, carbonated drinks has become the norm these days. As a result we see children gaining weight which leads to several health problems.
Lack of exercise: Playing outdoor games has become a thing of the past. Nowadays you find children spending more time at their Play stations, or sitting for hours playing games on mobile phones. This lack of physical activity leads to obesity in children as they do not burn the calories they consume.
Family factors: Children of obese parents tend to be overweight. Also unhealthy eating habits among family members can be a contributing factor.
Psychological factors: Sometimes children overeat due to personal or parental stress/pressure or to cope with boredom. It’s possible that their parents may be doing the same.
Problems of Excess Weight among Adults:
Excess weight affects almost all parts of our bodies. Obesity around the world make people more susceptible to many serious diseases and health problems like:
Type 2 Diabetes
High blood pressure (Hypertension)
Sleep apnea and breathing problems
High LDL cholesterol, Low HDL cholesterol and high Triglycerides
Cancer (breast, colon, kidney, endometrial, gall bladder, liver)
Problems during pregnancy
Mental disorders like anxiety, clinical depression etc.
Back pain: Back pain is one of most common complaint received from patients by doctors. Back pain may be mild or severe but it is a problem faced by many people. Doctors say that obesity is one of the main reasons of back pain.
Coronary Disease: Hardening of the arteries (Atherosclerosis) is ten times more prevalent among obese people than people with normal body weight. Coronary heart disease due to fat deposits in the arteries that supply blood to the heart is quite common among overweight people. Narrowed arteries leading to insufficient blood supply to the heart leads to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Type 2 Diabetes: This type of Diabetes was earlier found among adults but now we see children getting this disease too. Obesity causes resistance to insulin which regulates blood sugar. As obesity causes resistance to insulin, the blood sugar levels in your body shoot up.
High Blood Pressure: This is linked to obesity in several ways. Your heart has to pump blood even harder to supply blood to all the cells of your body if you have a large body size. This leads to an increase in the blood pressure. Excess fat also damages the kidneys which help in regulating the blood pressure.
Stroke: Being overweight leads to high blood pressure which in turn is the major cause of strokes. A stroke happens when blood supply to a part of your brain stops and the brain cells die. Excess weight also leads to other complications related to stroke like high cholesterol, high blood sugar and heart disease.
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a common problem that indicates pain and stiffness in the joints. Although osteoarthritis is related to old age or an injury, excess weight may put extra pressure on the joints and cartilage triggering the wearing away of the cartilages.
Sleep Apnea: This happens when a person takes pauses between breathing during his sleep. This could be dangerous as the oxygen supply to the brain stops with every pause. An overweight person may have fat deposits around his or her neck. This makes the airway small which may lead to difficulty in breathing, loud breathing (due to snoring) or breathing might stop altogether for short time periods.
Kidney Disease: Damaged kidneys are unable to filter blood and other waste products in our bodies. Hence the waste that should get eliminated from our bodies accumulate, leading to various complications. Obesity gives rise to diabetes and high blood pressure which damage the kidneys.
Cholesterol: This is a wax like fatty substance found in the cells of our bodies. Our body needs cholesterol to make hormones, Vitamin D and other substances that aid digestion. It does not mix in blood, so it is carried by small packages called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol throughout our bodies. They are the LDL (low density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol and the HDL (high density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol. It is desirable to have a healthy level of both. Being overweight increases the cholesterol level which builds up in the arteries. This is known as plaque. When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries it leads to heart attack.
Cancer: Obesity increases the risk of developing various forms of cancer, the most common being post-menopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and cancer of endometrium, kidney, gall bladder.
Problems during pregnancy: Being overweight raises the risk of health problems for both mother and baby. An overweight mother tends to develop insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. It also increases the risk of surgery and anesthesia. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy might lead to the mother becoming obese after delivery and the child might grow up not only as an obese child but also continue as an obese adult.
Mental disorders due to Obesity: Treating patients for obesity has often led doctors to assess their mental health too. Almost all these patients suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, poor self-image, physical inactivity, biological disruptions due to obesity. A study conducted by Dr. van der Merwe in South Africa showed that young girls are more susceptible to mental disorders due to obesity. This is because being overweight distresses women more than men as they always try to conform to the societal norms of beauty.
Complications of Childhood Obesity around the world:
Childhood obesity leads to a whole lot of problems just like they do among adults. Gone are the days when overweight children were considered ‘cute’. Nowadays everybody is well aware of the ill –effects of obesity. Obese children are susceptible to:
Type 2 Diabetes: With electronic gadgets becoming a rage among the young and the old the playgrounds and parks all remain empty. No longer are children seen playing outdoors. Rather they can be seen cooped up in their houses playing games on mobiles or at their PlayStation. Lack of exercise and unhealthy food habits increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes among children.
High cholesterol and High Blood Pressure: Gaining weight due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle will lead to these problems which can turn fatal later in the child’s life.
Emotional and Social Complications: Obese children are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, depression and other behavioral problems due to being bullied by other kids.
India is fast becoming a land of obese people. India is becoming a major contributor to obesity around the world. Hence it is absolutely necessary to cut down on that extra weight and live a healthy and happy life.
Small changes in our lifestyles and food habits including consumption of supplements can reap amazing results in reducing obesity around the world. Not only will we lose weight but also start living a disciplined life which definitely will help us in the long run. Weight management, therefore, has become most important issue in our lives and to control obesity around the world.