Where in health am I? : Home > Health Cloud > Conditions > Obesity


Contradictory as it seems, malnutrition is a key contributor to obesity - Madeleine M. Kunin


image by: Steve Baker

"The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that this "globesity" epidemic includes over one billion overweight adults of which at the least 300 million are considered obese. Over two thirds of Americans are overweight and about one third are considered obese. Likewise in 2004, over 6 million Canadians were overweight and over 4.5 million were obese.

In 2009 ~64% of all Americans were either overweight or obese defined as having a Body Mass Index of 25.0 to 29.9 and 30.5% of all Americans are obese, defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30.0 or higher. The tendency to become obese increases with age and, while there are slightly more overweight men than women, there are significantly more obese and very obese women than men.

Contributing factors such as reliance on fast foods, super-sized eating and substituting television and computers for more active pursuits, is fueling a continued growth in the number of people battling a weight problem. The enormous surge in obesity has meant a similar surge in obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and orthopedic problems – disorders that are costly to treat, often impossible to cure and detrimental to quality of life.

People who become or remain seriously overweight face a disturbing array of possible obesity-linked problems including; high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, gallstones, low back pain, heartburn, gout, obstructive sleep apnea and other respiratory problems, some types of cancer, including endometrial, breast, prostate and colon, complications of pregnancy, poor female reproductive health such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, bladder control problems (e.g., stress incontinence) and osteoporosis, to name a few.

Beyond medical problems, obesity also creates psychological disorders including depression, eating disorders, distorted body image and low self esteem. These issues are aggravated by social norms that place a high value on physical attractiveness and stereotype obese people as lazy or undisciplined. As a result, overweight and obese people often have difficulty leading the active and satisfying life that most people would like to lead.

The percentage of obesity that can be attributed to genetics varies from 6% to 85% depending on the population examined. However, while genes may increase one's risk for obesity, they do not by themselves cause obesity. Genes do not explain the rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity around the world.

For most people, obesity results from eating too much and not being active enough. Less than one-third of American adults report that they do at least thirty minutes of brisk walking or other moderate activity on most days of the week, and almost half engage in no leisure-time activity at all.

The overwhelming factors responsible for obesity are environmental. Portion sizes continue to increase. Americans were eating about 200 more calories per day in 2003 than they were in 1993. Fast-food restaurants encourage customers to "super size" and purchase "value" meals. Further, people eat out more often than in the past and many restaurants offer huge portion sizes. Television and other electronic media contribute to obesity through commercials urging people to buy food of low nutritional value, and by encouraging sedentary behavior...

What's frustrating is that weight loss diets don't appear to the answer. Diets fail for several reasons. It's now generally accepted that most people will plateau at a certain weight due to a decreased metabolic rate which causes most people to give up and go back to their old ways. Furthermore diets fail because most are not sustainable. The more restrictive the diet, the less likely an individual will be to remain faithful to it because in general, people cannot endure extended periods of hunger and deprivation.

Another reason diets may fail is that they neglect to teach dieters new eating habits to assist them to maintain their weight loss. Since the weight-loss diet is viewed as a temporary measure with a beginning and an end, at its conclusion, most dieters return to their previous eating habits and often regain the lost weight or even more weight. Those who work with people who are overweight or obese assert that diets do not fail; instead, dieters fail to learn how to eat properly to prevent weight regain. In addition, despite the many benefits of exercise, U.S. statistics show that two-thirds of adults are not physically active on a regular basis and a quarter get virtually no exercise at all.

So, what about weight-loss or bariatric surgery? The latest review of clinical studies of bariatric surgery suggest that bariatric surgery provided greater weight loss for any degree of obesity compared with non-surgical treatments. Surgery was also associated with reductions in diabetes, hypertension, and other co-existing conditions.

However, the decision to undergo bariatric surgery should not be made without fully exploring the benefits and the risks. The rock bottom reality is that bariatric surgery can give an obese person a fresh start, rapidly improving their health and dramatically accelerating the so often discouraging weight loss process.

But, even if it looks like a magic bullet, it’s not. The same need to change lifestyle habits apply. The good news is that it may be much easier to make those changes when a person is not facing the uphill battle of needing to lose 100+ pounds allowing one to quickly enjoy much greater physical health and the emotional boost that comes from achieving a better physical appearance.

While there are inherent risks, the consensus is that bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for severe clinical obesity. However, anyone considering this surgery should recognize that success is fleeting unless there is a serious and long term commitment to changes in lifestyle."

Source: Excerpt from Lap Bands - Worthless or Worthwhile? Health WorldNet, May 18 2012 Updated.