What is Obesity?
If someone is obese, it means they are seriously overweight as a result of having too much body fat. In adults, the exact level of obesity is determined by reference to the Body Mass Index (BMI). A score of 30+ on the BMI indicates mild obesity. Types of severe clinical obesity include morbid obesity (BMI 40+) and malignant or super obesity (BMI 50+). At the extreme end of the scale is super-super obesity (BMI 60+). Child obesity is measured differently. It is based on BMI-for-age, and is assessed in relation to the weight of other children of a similar age and gender. Central or abdominal obesity, now classified as an independent risk factor for some serious diseases, refers to excessive fat around the stomach, abdomen or middle.
Health Effects of Obesity
Obesity, especially morbid and super obesity, has been linked to raised incidence of premature death as well as several serious medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and stroke. Obesity is also a risk factor in higher rates of certain types of cancer, as well as fatty liver disease, vascular disorders, thrombosis, obstructive sleep apnea, musculoskeletal problems and gastroesophageal reflux. Abdominal obesity is associated with insulin resistance syndrome and cardiovascular disease. But if you are very overweight, do not despair. Losing even 5-10 per cent of your body weight can cause a significant improvement in your health.
Obesity in Women
Obese women are more likely than non-obese women to die from cancer of the gallbladder, breast, uterus, cervix and ovaries. In addition, obesity can lead to an increased risk of many obstetric and gynecological complications for women. These include infertility, menstrual abnormality, miscarriage and birth problems for both mother and child. Before menopause, women suffer less from abdominal obesity because estrogen levels cause fat to be stored around the hips and thighs. But after menopause, women tend to store more fat around their middle, with a consequent rise in associated health risks. See also: Body Fat/Adipose Tissue – Why We Gain Fat
Obesity in Men
Being typically apple-shaped, men have a higher risk for abdominal obesity which is an independent risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Morbidly obese white males aged 20-30 years old with a body mass index exceeding 45, can shorten their life expectancy by 13 years. Morbidly obese African American men of similar age and body mass index can lose up to 20 years of life. Abdominal obesity, characterized by a fat belly, is more common in men as males typically store fat around their middle. Men suffering from stress are especially at risk because stress causes the body to produce cortisol, a hormone which is believed to stimulate the storage of fat around the abdomen. Abdominal obesity is one of a cluster of interlinked symptoms (including, raised cholesterol levels, hypertension, insulin insensitivity, raised levels of inflammatory and clotting components in the blood) that make up ‘metabolic syndrome’. This metabolic disorder has been identified as a serious risk factor for heart disease. Estimates suggest that up to 1 in 3 of overweight men have metabolic syndrome.
Obesity in Children and Teenagers
According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of overweight children aged 6-11 years has almost doubled since the early 1980’s. The percentage of overweight adolescents has risen by nearly 300 percent. This is reflected in the increased prescription of weight loss drugs and the introduction of Lap-Band gastric reduction surgeries for obese teenagers.
Drug Treatment For Obesity
Mildly obese patients can benefit from diet and exercise treatments, sometimes provided in conjunction with weight loss medication. FDA-approved obesity drugs like Meridia (sibutramine) or Xenical (orlistat) can provide some assistance to some obese patients, although long term results are not encouraging. Clinical studies of weight loss pills show minimal benefits for obese patients, perhaps because drugs are not yet able to treat the emotional factors behind disordered eating patterns.
Patients with morbid obesity, especially those with serious co-morbid conditions, may qualify for bariatric surgical treatments such as Lap Band or Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Gastric reduction surgery is an important treatment option for obese patients with severe health problems. Initially, it leads to very significant weight loss in the 2 year period following their gastric bypass or banding operation, but it deals with symptoms (our excess weight) not causes (why we overeat). As a result, about 2-5 years after their operation, up to 40 percent of bariatric patients find it too arduous to follow the recommended dietary guidelines and end up regaining weight.
Recommended Non-Surgical Treatment For Obesity
So what can you do if you’re obese? How can you begin to regain control over your weight and shape? Here are two suggestions: first, get yourself a good incentive to reduce weight. Next, join a healthy weight loss program. One that allows you plenty to eat, explains what exercise is necessary, and why, and gives you tons of personal support to overcome the normal dieting headaches that cause you to quit. If you need help, then check out Anne Collins Weight Loss Diet Program. It includes a range of easy diets, great motivation advice, and a really friendly online weight loss forum with over 10,000 members to help you lose weight and keep it off. It is used by doctors and obesity clinics, as well as dieters from every state in America, and 20 other countries worldwide. The program’s success in helping obese patients lose up to 170 pounds of body fat, by healthy eating and friendly community support, is astonishing. To see how effective the diet program is, see Before-and-After Weight Loss Photos.
Obesity: A Complex Health And Social Problem
Obesity is a complex disease which has proved difficult to treat with medically-supervised diets or weight loss drugs. Only gastric reduction surgery has shown significant weight loss results, and even this type of drastic surgical treatment has its limitations. Why obese patients find weight reduction so arduous is unclear. Recent research suggests a complex combination of contributory factors that include (but are not limited to): the high fat and calorie content of snack foods and fast foods; a general lack of understanding as to the importance of exercise; a growing culture of over-eating both socially and in the home; the continuing power of advertising to shape eating habits; lack of nutritional education both at school and in the home; and larger serving sizes and food-portions. Because the current epidemic of overweight has no prime cause, weight management experts are still unable to agree on a specific program of action to prevent the rise of obesity among children and adolescents, let alone among the adult obese. Whether the rising social costs of overweight will trigger new and effective initiatives to treat obesity, remains an open question. Meantime, even though excess body fat is now a global health problem – hence the new word “globesity” – many Europeans who visit America are shocked by the larger US food serving sizes they encounter in grocery stores and in restaurants. Is there a message here?
Is There A Solution For Obesity?
More importantly, is there a cure for obesity? On the face of it, Yes. Eat less and exercise more. Unfortunately, statistics prove that obese patients do not respond to this simplistic approach. Perhaps our urge to overeat is becoming like the smoker’s urge to inhale. We want to eat more healthily, we want to lose weight, we want to reduce our fat belly, only we can’t give up our high-calorie eating habits, no matter how many fad diets or weight loss programs we try.
Support Makes Fat Loss Easier
Whether you choose bariatric surgery, long-term weight loss drugs like Xenical or Meridia, or a traditional combination of calorie-controlled diet and exercise, make sure you get enough day-to-day support. Losing weight is ALWAYS easier when we get help to achieve our weight loss goals. And if you have 50-100 pounds to lose, you definitely need encouragement to sustain you on your journey. Ideally, join a support group – eg. Overeaters Anonymous (505-891-2664) or TOPS (800-932-8677) – or go to meetings like Weight Watchers, or sign up for an online weight loss forum. Alternatively, contact the American Dietetic Association (800-366-1655), or the American Obesity Association (202-776-7711) for further information. But don’t try to reduce weight by yourself. If you’re obese, you need support.