Obesity

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Obesity is a term used to describe an excess of weight and fat in the body. This disease is nowadays more than ever, spreading around the world and affects children and adults from all ethnic groups. In order to confirm that a person is obese, a scale called Body Mass Index (BMI) is often used as it gives different ranges considering the age, weight and height of a person. Therefore, when the BMI reaches 40 (or more), the person is considered obese and is very likely to suffer from multiple health problems. However, BMI is not used as a definitive diagnoser of obesity, as individuals who are very muscular can have a high BMI with a low body fat percentage. An additional, useful measure which can be used to diagnose obesity is the measurement of the waist circumference.

Obesity can in fact significantly influence people's health and usually deteriorates vessels and heart function. This can result in a stroke where a part of the brain is not irrigated by blood or in a coronary heart disease where the fatty substances accumulate in the coronary arteries and stop the blood flow. Indeed, obesity on its own is not lethal, but it can induce or increase the likelihood of developing diseases like cancer (breast cancer, bowel cancer etc...). Obesity can also increase a person's risk of having a heart attack due to the strain on the cardiovascular system.

On the other hand, this disease can also cause chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2 where the intake of glucose is so important that the body doesn't produce enough insulin to regulate it back to its normal levels (between 0.8 - 1.2 g/L).

However, Obesity doesn't just affect people's lives on the long run but has repercussions on their daily life, as it can enable them to have normal mobility or to be able to participate in any activity that requires energy or movement as they suffer from back and joint pain as well as breathlessness.

All this can still be avoided in most cases as there is a simple though challenging treatment that consists of a healthy diet with a limited intake of fat and sugars (carbohydrates). This treatment can only work if the cause of the disease is environmental meaning that it is mostly due to lack of activity (sedentary) and an unhealthy diet. For other cases, where the genetic inheritance of certain gene increases the chance of becoming obese, this treatment can sometimes be useless[1][2].

Causes

On most individual levels, the main causes of obesity are thought to be the excessive intake of food coupled with a lack of physical activity. A certain number of cases shows other factors such as various medical reasons, genetics and psychiatric illness. The consequences of the progression of modern technology such as increased reliance on cars and machines and easily accessible food have also been linked with obesity. Other factors which have been thought to play a part in contributing to this condition are certain conditions such as hyperthyroidism or Cushing's syndrome, pregnancy at a late age, lack of sleep and eating disorders[3].

References

  1. NHS. (2014). Obesity. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obesity/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Last accessed 26th nov 2014. NHS. (2014). Stroke. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Stroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Last accessed 26th nov 2014.
  2. School of Public Health, Harvard. Obesity causes. Available: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/. Last accessed 26th nov 2014. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2014). Body Mass Index. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/Index.html. Last accessed 26th nov 2014.
  3. Keith SW, Redden DT, Katzmarzyk PT, Boggiano MM, Hanlon EC, Benca RM, Ruden D, Pietrobelli A, Barger JL, Fontaine KR, Wang C, Aronne LJ, Wright SM, Baskin M, Dhurandhar NV, Lijoi MC, Grilo CM, DeLuca M, Westfall AO, Allison DB (November 2006). "Putative contributors to the secular increase in obesity: exploring the roads less travelled". International Journal of Obesity (Review). 30 (11): 1585–94. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803326
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