American obesity is so prevalent that, anywhere you walk, you are bound to be stopped short by the sight of obese people of all ages. They are probably puffing and panting with the effort of moving. If there is a slight up slope, they
Will probably have to stop every few steps to catch their breath. It is a pity, for there is no need for such suffering. Obesity is one of the most easily preventable diseases, hormones and genetics notwithstanding. The cost of obesity to the country is $150 billion a year. That is 10% of the national medical budget. The cost is both in medical and surgical treatments for the diseases caused by obesity, and in work time lost due to them.
1 in 3 adults in America is obese, and 1 in 6 children. Obesity is a preventable cause of death from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, liver disease, and osteoarthritis. Obesity also causes sleep apnea in many. This is a regular cessation of breathing for several minutes at a time during sleep. These unfortunate effects of obesity do not seem to stop the runaway worldwide epidemic. The only country where obesity is not seen is Sub-Saharan Africa, where the living is hard, food scarce and people are on the move constantly.
Obesity is defined as being overweight with an excess of body fat. It is not simply being overweight, for one can be overweight from having a large lean muscle mass, large bones or excess water. Both types of overweight are defined as being unhealthy for a given height.
The percentage of body fat to height is expressed as Body Mass Index. This is calculated by multiplying weight in pounds by 703 and dividing the result by the square of your height in inches. This calculation is for people from 20 years and up. Thus if you are 100 pounds and your height is 60 inches, your BMI would be 100 x 703 /3600 = 19.52, which is a normal BMI. Though BMI correlates with the amount of body fat, it does not measure body fat. For example, athletes may have a high BMI because of their muscle weight, but they do not have excess body fat.
BMI is simply one indicator 0f potential health risks associated with being overweight or obese. The others are waist circumference (abdominal fat is associated with risks for heart disease, diabetes and stroke), high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
What are the causes of obesity? In limited cases obesity is caused by genetics and medical reasons (eg hypothyroidism) or psychiatric illness. The main culprits of obesity are the modern high availability of food and less participation in physical activity. In general, obesity is caused by eating far more calories than your body burns in its daily activity. You are considered obese if your weight is 20% or more above normal. You are morbidly obese if you are 50-100% over normal weight, are over 100 pounds over normal or your BMI is 40 or more. Also if you are sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with your health or normal function.
Economic and social conditions may dictate the way we eat and our daily activities.We eat more processed food and eat out more often. The ready made foods contain more calories, fat and salt than what we cook at home. They come in huge portions with immense calories. In poor areas, there is less availability of quality healthy food. Cheap cake is more available than fresh fruit. It is cheaper and easier to buy low quality, starchy, calorie-dense food from the corner store than to travel to a Whole Foods supermarket with its wide range of organic vegetables and fruits.
Healthy foods, all the food groups. The way we build our communities also contributes to obesity. People have to travel long distances to work or school, so walking is frequently not an option. As a nation we do not walk as our forefathers did when societies were small and self-contained. Our road systems are not safe for walking, biking or playing. Our work is mostly done sitting indoors, and when we come home we sit in front of televisions or computers till it is time to go to bed. Often children come home to starchy snacks and then watch television, or play video games, for several hours. Parents may or may not be home to supervise them or make them go out to play. At dinner time, the choice of drinks is often sugared sodas. Sodas, whether regular or diet, cause so much harm to ones body. For example, a Danish study on non-diet soda found dramatic increases of 100-200% in fat around the liver and in skeletal muscle of regular diet soda drinkers. It contributes to insulin resistance, thereby causing diabetes. It also causes a 30% increase in triglyceride blood fat and other organ fat. The cholesterol count is also higher compared to that of people who drank milk or water.
Here is the surprising conclusion of studies on diet sodas. They may be zero calorie, and may not seem to have any downside. But daily consumption increases by 43% the likelihood of heart attack, stroke and other vascular events.
From obese to beautiful, a weight loss success story. Research at Harvard showed that women taking 2 or more diet sodas a day have a 30% drop in kidney function, even after accounting for hypertension, diabetes and physical activity. And a University of Texas Health Science Center study found a 70% greater increase in waist circumference in diet soda drinkers. In a purely observational conclusion, people drinking 2 or more per day had a 500% larger waist circumference than non-drinkers. A study on mice found that aspartame, the artificial sweetener in diet beverages and several other foods, raises blood glucose in the mice, causing weight gain.
Aspartame is a man-made neurotoxin, proven to cause terrifying side-effects, marketed by G.D. Searle. The FDA rejected its claims for approval four times, but guess who its SEO was in 1981, when the head of the FDA was replaced? Donald Rumsfeld, one of Ronald Reagans powerful political inner circle. That is another long story of political corruption for great financial gain.
Other factors also may play a role in obesity: Age older peoples metabolism slows as they age, so eating less at 40, you may find yourself heavier than at 20.
Gender Men have a higher resting metabolic rate than women and do not gain weight as fast as women on the same calorie count.
Genetics You are likely predisposed to be fat if your parents are fat. That does not mean you have to be fat. You can control it with your diet and physical activity. Psychiatric factors, illness and medicines like steroids and antidepressants can also dispose you to obesity.
Healthy snacking prevents childhood obesity.
Besides the physical and medical effects of obesity, consider the emotional consequences. Obese people are often stereotyped as greedy or lazy and that may not be the case at all, if you study all the causes of obesity. They suffer rejection and shame and often fall into depression. More often than not they are discriminated against in the job market (sometimes justifiably, for they may be unable to perform certain tasks due to obesity). Of great concern is the finding that obesity increases the risk of death from sleeping pills.
This is linked to interaction with sleep apnea that many obese people suffer from. Among obese people, sleeping pills accounted for one extra death per year for every 100 people who were prescribed the medications, hypnotics such as zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril).
Since overeating is at the root of obesity, then the main treatment option lies in food. We should educate people to choose a sensible, healthy diet with enough calories for their daily activity level. Eat a diet high in fiber and good carbohydrates fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes- that are nutritious, filling and relatively low in calories. These foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals for healthy living.
Limit sugary foods and drinks. Sugar is in most foods to make them palatable. One 12-ounce soda a day will add 16 lbs. weight in a year. Drink water instead. Many sugary foods, like donuts, are also high in fats, so are calorie-dense. Directing children away from these harmful foods and providing instead fresh healthy fruits will help prevent childhood obesity, saving them the pain of obesity as they grow older.
Cut down on animal fats. These are saturated fats that raise your cholesterol level. Keep off trans fats, which are in processed foods and fast foods. Eat more fish and nuts for the healthy fats they contain. Moderate your portions, eat a variety of foods.
A healthy exercise to maintain good health and weight
Physical activity is the other important factor in treating obesity. We should make our environment safe for people to exercise outdoors, to walk, bike and play. If we provided more safe sidewalks in town and more miles of bicycle lanes, there would be more people walking and biking.
Children should be encouraged to play outside for a couple of hours each day. This is not just for their physical health and development, but also for their emotional health. Keeping them safe outside the home is a fear of parents in the inner city. To that end there could be a rotation of parents or older children to supervise their play areas.
Pharmaceuticals have produced several drugs to treat obesity. So far they have shown very little weight loss results while causing significant adverse effects of the nervous system, psychiatric and gastro-intestinal systems. Take for example the drug Adipex-X, a stimulant and appetite suppressant. It impairs thinking or reactions, and driving while under the influence of, could be as dangerous as alcohol. If used with some anti-depressants it could cause a dangerous drug interaction and death. If used with another diet medication like Phen-Fen it could cause a rare fatal lung disorder, pulmonary hypertension. Drugs, seemingly, have not been successful in treating obesity. In morbid obesity, surgery has been developed to drastically reduce the size of the stomach and shorten the length of the intestines. The effects have been to reduce the amount of food taken and reduce the absorption of nutrients passing through the gut. If surgery is successful and the patient survives the often drastic, painful and embarassing after effects of the surgery, the desired weight loss can be achieved, as evidenced by the famous Al Roker. Once the weight is stable, the excess skin is excised in the operating room. The patient usually has to take vitamin and calcium supplements for the rest of his life because of malabsorption in the gut. He may also develop gallstones and kidney problems in the long term.
There is an enormous weight loss industry world wide. Being slim and supple is the body ideal. There are programs with Diet Plans, like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem. There are supplements made from natural botanicals like African Mango and Capsicum. There are cleanses in pill form or colonics that make you feel lighter and flatter. And there are gyms and all sorts of exercise machines that help you lose weight and achieve the shape you want. The important thing is to be persistent in your pursuit of weight loss, not be discouraged if the loss is slow, for slow is safer. A fast weight loss is usually followed by a fast regain, so go at a steady pace. It helps to have somebody do it with you so you can encourage each other.