Updated: Feb 3
Obese individuals are at an increased risk of serious forms of diseases and other conditions related to health when compared to healthy-weight individuals. Obesity as well as its related health-based problems have significant levels of economic influence over the United States healthcare system that includes direct as well as indirect costing and other related financial burdens. Having excessive weight may have a serious side-effect on health. Thus, there may be serious health-related consequences like cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and a few cancers resulting in premature death.
What is Obesity?
Obesity comprises a complex form of disease that involves an excess accumulation of bodily fat. Obesity is both a cosmetic as well as a medical issue that causes an increase in the risk of development of other diseases along with health-related problems like cardiac diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure along with few types of cancers.
What are the causes of Obesity?
There are genetic, behavior-related, metabolic as well as hormone-related influences that can lead to excess body weight. Obesity can occur when a person consumes excessive amounts of calories which cannot be burnt using normal day-to-day activities along with exercise. Our body can store excessive amounts of calories in the form of fats. Obesity is the result of a combination of various causes along with various risk factors such as:
a) Familial inheritance: Genes inherited from one’s parents might affect the amounts of body fat that can be stored and distributed within the body. Genetics plays an important role in regulating the efficiency with which one’s body can convert food in the form of energy, how appetite can be regulated, and the burning of calories while exercising.
1) Consumption of unhealthy form of diet that is rich in calories and lacks fruits and/or vegetables, junk food, high-calorie beverages
2) Consumption of liquid-form of calories such as alcohol or sugary soft drinks
3) Inactive or sedentary form of lifestyle
4) Various types of diseases, Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing syndrome as well as certain medications like antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, anti-diabetic medications, antipsychotic agents, corticosteroids or beta-blockers
5) Social as well as economic problems, for example, one lives in a neighborhood that is not safe for walking or exercising
6) Age-associated changes in hormones and an inactive lifestyle, reduction in body's metabolism and
7) A variety of factors like Pregnancy where one can easily gain weight, any type of stress wherein people consume calorie-rich foods and
8) Gut bacteria.
What are the consequences of Obesity?
People suffering from obesity are highly likely to develop a large number of very serious health-related problems that include —
a) Heart diseases and stroke as obesity causes the development of high blood pressure and abnormal levels of cholesterol that can act as a risk factor
b) Diabetes: Obesity influences the body’s capability of producing insulin for controlling levels of glucose in the blood. This results in an increased risk of resistance to insulin and the development of diabetes
c) Certain types of cancers: Obesity increases the risk of development of cancer of uterus, uterine cervix, endometrium, ovaries, breasts, colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gall-bladder, pancreas, kidney as well as prostate gland
d) Development of digestion-related problems such as an increase in chances or likelihood of development of heartburn, diseases of the gallbladder, and problems related to liver
e) Sleep-related apnea: People suffering from obesity have more chances of developing sleep apnea that is a potential serious sleep-related disorder wherein the process of breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleeping
f) If a person diagnosed with Osteoarthritis has developed obesity, there is an increase in stress placed upon the weight-bearing joints that can also lead to an increase in inflammation within one's body and
g) Increase in severity of symptoms of COVID-19: Obesity increases the risk for the development of a severe type of symptoms if one becomes severely infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus.
How can Obesity be prevented?
If any person consumes a very high amount of calories, especially in form of fats and sugars, and is unable or incapable of burning off or consuming this energy using regular exercising along with any form of physical activity, most of this excess energy may be stored within the body in form of accumulation of fat.
Various preventive measures against obesity are as follows:
a) Controlling intake of calories: The energy-related value of various food items are measured in terms of units called “calories”. An average physically active male requires up to 2,500 calories/day for maintaining their healthy levels of weight while on average a physically active female requires up to 2,000 calories daily. The amount of calorie requirement appears very high and this requirement must be reached for the proper functioning of the body. However, a significant problem linked with most individuals is that if they are not sufficiently active physically, a large number of consumed calories may get stored within one’s body in the form of fat
b) Consumption of poor choices in diet: Obesity is not an overnight phenomenon. It requires time to develop gradually as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices, such as
i) consuming larger amounts of processed or junk foods that contain higher amounts of fats and sugars,
ii) consuming large amounts of alcohol as alcohol has lots of calories in it and people who are heavy drinkers are mostly overweight
iii) when one eats lots of junk food: One must have temptation for having starters or desserts at any restaurant and type of food that may have high contents of fat and sugars,
iv) when one eats large portions of food than it is needed: One might be tempted for eating lots of food if one’s friends and/or relatives are eating lots of large-sized portions
v) if one is in habit of drinking lots of sugar-containing beverages such as soft drinks or fruit juices and
vi) eating comfort foods: If one suffers from severe lower self-esteem or is feeling depressed, one eats to feel better. Also, there might be the presence of unhealthy eating habits running within families that one might be learning from their parents when one is young and continues these well into adult-hood
c) Lacking physical activities: Lack of adequate amounts of physical-based activities is an important factor responsible for developing obesity. Most people have types of jobs that involve sitting on one's desk for the majority of time or people mostly rely upon the use of cars when compared to walking and cycling. Also, for relaxation, people watch Television or continuously browse the internet or constantly play games on a computer or smartphone and rarely exercise.
The Department of Health and Social welfare has recommended a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities such as cycling and fast walking per week for adults. This form of physical activity is not required at any single time but rather may be divided into small periods. For example, one must exercise for 30 minutes each day for 5 days per week.