I write about the impact of obesity on our health and major changes in dietary and physical activity patterns.
What is obesity?
Obesity is a complex disease and its prevalence in the world is increasing. Many experts point out that there have been a number of environmental changes. In the developing world over the past 30 years global weight gain in humans has drastically increased.
There is the probably most appropriate definition of obesity for clinical use. Obesity is a complex and diverse chronic disease. Typically, higher amounts of body fat also mean weight gain.
The biggest contributors to obesity are the availability of cheap industrially processed food and significantly reduced daily physical activity.
Obesity has the characteristics of an epidemic
Obesity is not only a cosmetic problem, but it greatly increases the risk of developing chronic diseases. This is becoming an increasing health and socio-economic problem.
Obesity is a state of extreme over-eating
In 1997, the WHO (World Health Organization) classified obesity as a chronic metabolic disease. Excessive accumulation of fat in the body and obviously endangers health. Worldwide, obesity is expected to more than double.
As of 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 and over are overweight. Of these, more than 600 million are obese. Globally, this means 39% of overweight adults.
Why is obesity so prevalent?
Increased access to food, unbalanced and irregular diet and insufficient physical activity increase the proportion of overweight populations around the world.
The study of the movement of obesity prevalence in space and time shows us, that obesity is a disease that has the characteristics of an epidemic. Due to its slow spread, it is not as obvious as classic infectious diseases. An unhealthy contagious lifestyle strongly promoted by the industry for its benefits.
The majority of the world’s population lives in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than malnourished people.
As an example – in 2014, the WHO recorded 41 million children under the age of 5 who were overweight or obese.
The impact of obesity on our health
Adipose tissue secretes many hormones, mediators and metabolites that affect blood pressure, lipid metabolism and the body’s response to insulin and blood clotting. These substances keep the body in a state of chronic subclinical inflammation, which contributes to the development of obesity-related diseases.
With weight gain, the risk of developing various diseases increases. Especially cardiovascular diseases, which are the most common.
The risk of developing high blood pressure (arterial hypertension) increases. It causes the onset of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, respiratory sleep problems, asthma, bladder disease, osteoarthritis, and chronic back pain.
Obesity also affects pregnancy complications, menstrual disorders, physiological disorders and urinary incontinence. Obesity is associated with a high risk of premature mortality.
Being overweight affects on our health
People with increased body weight have high blood pressure 5 times more often than lean people. At first, the condition usually does not cause symptoms. High pressure in the arteries causes damage to the inner part of the vessel wall, therefore it is easier for fat molecules to penetrate through.
Fatty plaques form in these places that narrow the vein. The chronic process of atherosclerosis begins, which means progressive inflammatory events in the wall of arteries throughout the body and the accumulation of fat in the walls of blood vessels.
Vascular diseases often lead to damage to other organs and organ systems. Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary thromboembolism are more likely to occur.
Obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Enzymes decompose food and convert it into glucose. Thus is delivered by the blood to the cells, where it is used for energy. Insulin is necessary for the delivery and consumption of glucose insulin (a hormone of the pancreas).
In diabetes, insulin secretion is insufficient. Therefore is more glucose in the liver, but muscle and fat cells cannot use it for their function. Glucose begins to be present in the urine.
The patient urinates several times a day and is very thirsty at the same time. Patient is also very hungry because he can not use the glucose from the blood. Therefore he eats more, but at the same time he is still hungry, because the glucose from the body is lost in the urine.
Patients with diabetes feel tired, sleepy and are not capable of heavy physical demands.
Gastrointestinal system and liver
Due to fat deposits, the pressure in the abdominal cavity increases, which leads to the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease. The blood fat ratio breaks down. The amount of “bad” cholesterol increases and the value of “protective” cholesterol decreases, which leads to the development of gallstones and related diseases of the gallbladder.
In obese people, the liver is more burdened with fat, which can lead to non-alcoholic liver disease.
Obesity has a bad effect on the system in terms of menstrual disorders, infertility, complications in pregnancy, even some birth defects and intrauterine fetal death.
Hypogonadism occurs in men and there are more erectile dysfunction.
Obesity and cancer
Being overweight is becoming an increasingly recognized risk factor for developing malignancies. Analysis of prospective studies suggests an increased incidence of cancer of the esophagus, thyroid, colon, and kidney in men and endometrium, gallbladder, esophagus, and kidney in women.
Certain forms of cancer (e.g., cancer of the colon, breast, endometrium (uterus), gallbladder, prostate) may occur because of overeating and obesity.
High BMI is also associated with earlier wear of the joints and spine (degenerative disease), which is the most common form of orthopedic problems in adults.
It is a mechanical wear of the articular cartilage, which can eventually lead to damage to the connective parts of the joint and the articular bone. The thesis affects the skeleton.
First, there is pain, which patients usually describe as deep or pulsating pain. The pain is often stronger in the morning after getting up. In addition, muscle weakness is usually present with a degeneratively altered joint. Later, problems with getting up and walking occur.
The most commonly affected load-bearing joints like knees, hips, and sacroiliac joint.
Respiratory and nervous system
Hypoventilation syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea are directly related to obesity. Fat also builds up around the neck and in the soft palate area, which narrows the airway and causes breathing problems.
In diseases of the nervous system, they can be the result of vascular damage and related ischemic events. This can also lead to poor mental well-being, as it can cause depression, lower self-esteem, and reduce the quality of life. Dementia is also very common.
Obesity treatment? Yes, it is necessary!
Because of all the risks of developing the disease, obesity needs to be treated. Treatment needs to be tackled on several levels. For long-term weight maintenance, it is necessary to change the lifestyle, which also includes physical activity.
At the individual level, anyone can limit energy intake from total fats and sugars, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. Also do not forget about legumes, whole grains and nuts.
The recommended physical activity to maintain a normal body weight for children is 60 minutes a day and for adults 150 minutes to be done throughout the week.
Individual responsibility and access to a healthy lifestyle are important. Therefore, at the societal level, it is important to support individuals in following these recommendations.
There is a need for sustainable evidence-based implementation and policy support based on promoting regular physical activity and healthy dietary choices available to all. This means affordable and easily accessible to all, especially the poorest individuals.
Above all, it is necessary to support regular physical activity, including in the workplace.
We need to be aware that we are talking about our body that needs to be taken care of, so let’s get regular exercise and eat right!