I watched an online television programme where the discussants dwelt on malnutrition and its consequences but they forgot to tell the viewers the other side of the coin ‘Obesity and overweight”.
Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults.
It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).World Health Organisation defined that a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight while a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity. BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults.
Facts about overweight and obesity.
Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. “Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.”
Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. For example, 65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight (this includes all high-income and most middle-income countries).
What causes obesity and overweight?
The cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
An increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat.
An increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.
What are common health consequences of overweight and obesity?
Raised BMI is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as:
Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke).
Diabetes; musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis-a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints).
Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).
The risk for these non-communicable diseases increases, with the increase in BMI.
Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, and early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
How can overweight and obesity be reduced?
Overweight and obesity, as well as their related non-communicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity.
At the individual level, people can:
Limit energy intake from total fats and sugars.
Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts.
Engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).
Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle.
Make regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to all – especially the poorest individuals.
The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods.