Rise of Obesity and its Implications

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Obesity has reached epidemic level all over the world. Obesity was once considered to be a problem only for the urban dwellers. But now the epidemic has spread all over the world. The World Health Organization estimates that almost 10% of all adults on the planet can be classified as obese. In the United States obesity accounts for a total of 300,000 deaths every year. Death due to obesity is second only to deaths that are caused by smoking.

The body mass index, or BMI, is used as a tool to measure obesity. The BMI technique is widely used for calculating the mass of fatty adipose tissue in a body. The index is derived from a person’s weight divided by their height. BMI less than 18.5 is considered as underweight, and above 30 is considered as obese. A person with a BMI over 40 is considered to be morbidly obese. You can also measure obesity by the waist-hip ratio and the body fat percentage. BMI table

Obesity has various dire health consequences. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoarthritis (cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint degrades), back pain, high total cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides. Some other health risks due to obesity are deep vein thrombosis, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, stroke, disease of the gallbladder, sleep apnea and respiratory problems. Liver cancers, breast, colon and stomach are also known to have been induced by obesity.

Psychological problems such as low self-esteem, depression and some cases of suicide are ascribed to obesity. These are just a few well known effects on health caused by obesity; the factual list is much bigger. Of all the medical disorders listed, type-2 diabetes is the most common disorder caused by obesity. Sixty-four percent of all male and seventy-seven percent of all female sufferers of diabetes are obese reuters.com top news

Causes of Obesity

The overwhelming majority of obesity is due to overeating without proper physical exercise. Diet and living style changes with nations and geographic regions, but globalization combined with increase in incomes and increase in food production with faster urbanization have all had a hand in the obesity epidemic. In the U.S. the rise of energy-dense, calorie rich fast food meals between the years 1977 and 1995 and the control of a car-centered lifestyle have greatly contributed to the rise in obesity.

Governments have also contributed to the problem. In the 1980s, the U.S. government eliminated regulations that limited the advertisement of sweets and fast food to children. This led to an outburst of marketing attempts by corporations to capture the youth market. Over 50% of the commercials aimed at children are based on food, and the food described is almost always sweetened and processed. U.S. and European government subsidies for corn, wheat, soy and rice have unnaturally lowered the price of such foods. These foods have finally become the main source of purchase and consumers have turned their backs to the more expensive fruits and vegetables.

Genetic, psychiatric and socioeconomic factors are also known to play a part in the rise of obesity. Current studies in the neurobiological mechanisms of obesity have shown that levels of the hormone leptin may control obesity. Leptin influences energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism. Research shows that most obese individuals are tolerant to the consequences of leptin. A leptin inadequacy causes overfeeding. Detailed information on leptin and its effect on the body can be found here

The WHO site on obesity gives global statistics such as obesity rates by country and strategies employed at an international level to fight the disorder. Endotext.org’s obesity page provides links to papers written by scientists and doctors on almost every aspect of obesity. Most papers contain detailed statistical information as well.