What is obesity?

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on a person’s health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems.   In other words, it means to be dangerously overweight.

Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children, and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.

To know if a person is overweight, the body mass index (BMI) is calculated, by dividing the weight (in kilograms) by the height of the person in meters, squared (multiplied by itself). This is only meaningful for adults who are fully grown, and should not be used for children. In children a healthy weight varies with age and gender. Obesity in children and adolescents is defined not as an absolute number but in relation to a historical normal group,

A BMI between 20 and 24 is considered normal. People with a BMI of 24 or more are said to be overweight; with 30 and above, they are considered obese, and with 35 and above, they are considered severely obese (this used to be called morbidly obese). In general, the BMI number is a good quantifiable measurement of a person’s obesity, however it is a poor predictor in people who are very athletic, because a person with a higher than average amount of muscle tissue will weigh more than an average person, thus resulting in a BMI that is higher than normal, even if that person is very large fat people of America Someone who is 1.75m tall, and has a weight of 80 kg, would have a BMI of 80 / 3.0625. This gives a BMI of 26.12(..) – He or she would therefore be considered overweight.

Obesity is usually helped by diet (being careful about what food to eat) and exercise. Some people also use weight loss programs. In severe cases, drugs can be given. In very severe cases, weight-loss surgery can be done.

Obesity usually occurs because of over-eating and lack of enough exercise and is easily treated by not eating so much food.

History of Obesity

Many cultures throughout history viewed obesity as the result of a character flaw. The obesus or fat character in Greek comedy was a glutton and figure of mockery. In fact, the Greeks were the first to recognize obesity as a medical disorder.  Hippocrates said, “Corpulence is not only a disease itself, but the harbinger of others”.  It was known to the Indian surgeon Sushruta (6th century BCE), who related obesity to diabetes and heart disorder.  He recommended physical work to help cure it and its side effects.

During Christian times food was viewed as a gateway to the sins of sloth and lust.  But, for much of human history mankind struggled with food scarcity, and so obesity has sometimes been viewed as a sign of wealth and prosperity. It was common among high officials in Europe in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as well as in Ancient East Asian civilizations.  With the onset of the industrial revolution it was realized that the military and economic might of nations were dependent on both the body size and strength of their soldiers and workers. Increasing the average body mass index from what is now considered underweight to what is now the normal range played a significant role in the development of industrialized societies. Height and weight thus both increased through the 19th century in the developed world. During the 20th century, as populations reached their genetic potential for height, weight began increasing much more than height, resulting in obesity. In the 1950s increasing wealth in the developed world decreased child mortality, but as body weight increased heart and kidney disease became more common.  During this time period insurance companies realized the connection between weight and life expectancy and increased premiums for the obese.

Public perceptions in Western society regarding healthy body weight differ from those regarding the weight that is considered ideal  – and both have changed since the beginning of the 20th century. The weight that is viewed as an ideal has become lower since the 1920s. This is illustrated by the fact that the average height of Miss America pageant winners increased by 2% from 1922 to 1999, while their average weight decreased by 12%.  On the other hand, people’s views concerning healthy weight have changed in the opposite direction. In Britain the weight at which people considered themselves to be overweight was significantly higher in 2007 than in 1999.  These changes are believed to be due to increasing rates of adiposity leading to increased acceptance of extra body fat as being. That said, in modern Western culture, excess weight is still usually regarded as unattractive, and obesity is commonly associated with various negative stereotypes. People of all ages can face social stigmatization, and may be targeted by bullies or shunned by their peers. Obesity is once again a reason for discrimination.

Obesity In Children

Obesity in adults often has its roots in childhood. In the developed world, obesity in children is growing at a frighteningly fast rate. There are more obese children now than ever before. Many people believe that parents are letting their carelessness with their own diets spill over into their children’s lives.

Preventing Obesity

A sedentary lifestyle plays a significant role in obesity. Worldwide there has been a large shift towards less physically demanding work, and currently at least 60% of the world’s population gets insufficient exercise. This is primarily due to increasing use of mechanized transportation and a greater prevalence of labour-saving technology in the home. 

In both children and adults there is an association between television viewing time and the risk of obesity.  A 2008 meta-analysis found that 63 of 73 studies (86%) showed an increased rate of childhood obesity with increased media exposure, with rates increasing proportionally to time spent watching television.

The primary treatment for obesity is dieting and physical exercise. To supplement this, or in case of failure, anti-obesity drugs may be taken to reduce appetite or inhibit fat absorption. In severe cases, surgery is performed or an intragastric balloon is placed to reduce stomach volume and/or bowel length, leading to earlier satiation and reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food.

Here are a few points to think about when trying to prevent obesity and subsequent health problems:-

Small children are normally energetic and often require snacks in-between meals. It is most important to choose healthy snacks.  Alternative snacks can include:

Vegetable snacks like carrot sticks and celery are a good and fun alternative to crisps and “junk food” snacks.

Fruit can be substituted for sweets, and other sugar snacks.

Soda and sugar snacks produce hyperactivity in many young children and will sow the seeds for problems later in life. It also leads to dental problems and the beginnings of obesity. It is good to keep these foods in check and use alternatives if possible. Sugar is a known addictive food in that the more you eat the more you want to eat. This can quickly escalate into a serious eating problem and can lead to obesity as the body stores excess sugar as fat.

Breakfast cereals are perhaps the biggest problem in people’s diets. Everyone is in a hurry in the morning and it is easy to reach for the cereal packet for a quick family breakfast. However be careful of these presweetened cereals as they give unnecessary large amounts of sugar to your system laying the grounds for sugar addiction. Now there are many alternatives to presweetened cereals. There are many tasty “healthy” cereals which provide added fiber and less if any sugar. These are good for you and your children as they will provide a much more nutritious breakfast and not just fill you up with sugar and excess carbohydrates.

Fast food habits also begin when we are quite small. This is reinforced by extensive TV advertising and propaganda for these foods. It is almost inbred in us to eat hamburgers, chips and other fast food. Children have an inborn liking for these foods and can easily become quite addicted to them.

Basically, good eating habits begin when children are very young. It can start from the time they first start to eat. It is very important to a child’s health to start good eating habits at a young age. It is possible to lay the foundations of good and healthy eating habits when children are still quite small. It is just a question of educating ourselves and passing on good habits to our children. When you do this you reduce the possibility of obesity in your children and all the mental and physical risks involved in later life.

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