What are overweight and obesity?
Excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat which harms the health of our body has been explained as overweight and obesity.
Body mass index (BMI) is frequently used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is the division of a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in meters (kg/m2).
WHO has defined overweight and obesity as when the BMI is greater than or equal to 25 and 30 respectively.
According to the facts estimated by WHO on overweight and obesity, it was noted that there have been more than double incidences of obesity from 1980 to 2014. In 2014, it has been noted that a total of 13% of the total population in the world was noted to be obese with men and women having 11% and 13% respectively. In the same year, a total of 1.9 billion or more adults ranging 18 years of age or older were found overweight, out of which more than 600 million were obese. We can say that now the total overweight and obese people must have crossed 2 billion.
It has been found that higher number of people have died due to overweight and obesity than underweight worldwide. Presently, the presence of individuals suffering from under-nutrition and on the other hand obesity in the same household, community and country have been found to be very common.
Childhood obesity gives a higher probability to premature death and disability in adulthood. Apart from the risks faced in adulthood, such children also suffer from difficulty in breathing, higher risk of fractures, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, resistance to insulin and many more psychological effects.
Middle and Low-income countries promote a greater risk to the children due to its inadequate nutrition in pre-natal, infant and young growing years. These children are exposed to food containing low or no nutrient rich foods which also are high in fat, sugar and salt due to its low cost. And when one combines such food with a sedentary lifestyle the chances of childhood obesity increases.
Mainly overweight and obesity are due to the imbalance of energy between the consumption of calories and their expenditure. There has been an increase in the consumption of calories all around the world and simultaneously an increase in the sedentary lifestyle.
It is not compulsory to exactly balance the calorie consumption and expenditure. What is needed to maintain a healthy weight is the balance of energy over the period of time.
- An Inactive Lifestyle
The main reason is the number of hours invested in watching TV and on PC doing work and fun activities. Spending over 2 hours a day on TV has been connected to overweight and obesity.
Other reasons are: depending on vehicles instead of walking, less physical activity at work or at home due to development, and absence of physical instruction classes in schools.
Rather than supporting healthy lifestyle our environment encourages obesity. Some of the causes are:
- Lack of sidewalks and parks in the neighbourhood.
- Large food portions.
- Less access to healthy food.
- Advertising by fast food companies.
- Genes and Family History
Overweight and obesity have the tendency to run in the family. The chances of overweight and obesity are higher if either of the parents or both are overweight or obese.
Genes might affect the quantity of fat stored in the body and where that additional fat is stored in the body. Children tend to adopt the habits of their parents and hence a link exists between genes and the environment.
- Health Conditions
Some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity.
- Underactive thyroid – Thyroid gland doesn’t produce sufficient thyroid hormone. Thus, slowdowns metabolism and causes weight gain. Also makes an individual feel tired and weak.
- Cushing’s syndrome – Adrenal glands produce excessive cortisol. It makes an individual gain weight, upper-body obesity, round face, fat around the neck, and thin arms and legs.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – Suffering women are often obese, have excessive growth of hair, and have reproductive problems and other health issues. It is caused by high levels of androgens.
Some medicines might cause weight gain. It includes some corticosteroids, antidepressants, and seizure medicines.
These medicines can slow down the rate of calorie burn, increase the appetite, or water retention. It all leads to weight gain.
- Emotional Factors
Many people overeat when feeling bored, angry, or stressed. It leads to gaining the weight and can cause overweight or obesity.
Many people gain weight after quitting as they can taste and smell food better. It is also because nicotine increases the rate of burning calories, so you burn fewer calories when you stop smoking.
With increasing age there is a tendency of muscle loss which can decrease the rate of burning calories. Thus, there is a need to reduce the calorie intake in order to avoid overweight or obesity.
There is another stage in women called midlife weight gain which is mostly due to aging and lifestyle, but a major role is played by menopause.
Women experience weight gain during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the baby but it becomes difficult to lose after parturition. It can lead to overweight or obesity after a couple of pregnancies.
- Lack of Sleep
Sleep helps uphold a healthy balance of hormones that induces the feeling of hunger (ghrelin) or full (leptin). Lack of sleep causes an increase in ghrelin level and a decrease in leptin level. Thus, inducing hunger and overeating.
Lack of sleep causes a higher level of blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Common health consequences
Overweight and obesity come under non-communicable diseases. It increases the risk factor for the following:
- Diabetes (Type 2)
- In diabetes the blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) level of the body is too high.
- In type 2 diabetes, insulin is not used properly by the cells of the body.
- People who have diabetes type 2 are mostly overweight.
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Coronary Heart Disease
- CHD is a condition in which inside the coronary arteries there is a buildup of a waxy substance (plaque).
- Obesity can also lead to failure of
- High Blood Pressure
- As the blood is pumped by the heart, the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is known as blood pressure.
- In the arteries, the buildup of plaque can form a blood clot.
- If the clot is near to the brain, the flow of blood and oxygen is blocked to brain and causes a
- An increase in BMI increases the chances of a stroke.
- Abnormal Blood Fats
- Blood fats consist of high levels of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
- When the level of blood fats is abnormal it can increase the risk of CHD.
- Metabolic Syndrome
- A group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease and other health problems (like diabetes and stroke) is known as Metabolic Syndrome.
- Metabolic syndrome diagnosis is made if at least three of the risk factors listed below are present:
- A large waistline (abdominal obesity
- A higher level of triglyceride.
- A lower level of HDL cholesterol.
- Higher blood pressure.
- Higher fasting blood sugar.
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Osteoarthritis is a common joint problem of the hips, knees, and lower back. It occurs when the tissue protecting the joints wears away. More pressure and wear on joints is caused by extra weight.
- A few types’ cancers (endometrial, gallbladder, breast, and colon).
- Gallstones are hard stone-like material pieces typically made of cholesterol formed in the gallbladder. They cause stomach or back pain.
- Overweight and obesity cause the gallbladder to enlarge which increases the risk of gallstones.
- Sleep Apnea
- It is a common disorder in which there are one or more pauses in breathing (shallow breaths) while sleeping.
- A person having sleep apnea has a high level of fat stored around the neck. It narrows the airway, causing difficulty in breathing.
- Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome
- Obesity hypoventilation syndrome(OHS) is a breathing disorder found in most people suffering from obesity.
- OHS can also cause death in severe cases.
- Reproductive Problems
- Overweight and obesity causes menstrual issues and in many cases infertility in women.
- Coronary Heart Disease
As the BMI increases, the risk for the diseases listed above also increases.
How can it be reduced?
The easiest method to prevent overweight and obesity is making a healthier choice in terms of diet, physical activity, and a supportive environment. The weight of an individual is influenced by a number of factors including the environment, genetics (family history), metabolic activity, habits or behaviour, and much more. Where factors like genetics cannot be changed, it is possible to change factors like lifestyle and habits.