General Health

Complications and Factors Affecting Obesity

Since the turn of the century, the prevalence of obesity has quadrupled. The abnormal or excessive fat accumulation leading to a risk to health is defined as Overweight or Obesity. The body weight index (BMI) measures obesity. A BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight whereas greater than 30 is considered obese. Since it is the same for both sexes and all ages of adults, BMI is the most useful measure of obesity at the population level. In the Global Burden of Disease report, the issue has reached epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying every year as a result of complications associated with being overweight or obese

The strongest determinants of obesity are physical activity as well as aging. Globally, obesity is more likely to cause death than being underweight.  In addition to adverse metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health consequences, the increase in body fat promotes dysfunctional adipose tissue. The underlying cause of obesity is the imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. The odds of being obese increase with age, and are higher among urban dwellers and women. 

Childhood Obesity

The risk of obesity, premature death, and disability in adulthood is higher when you are obese as a child. Children with obesity face breathing difficulties, increased fracture risk, hypertension, insulin resistance, and psychological effects on top of their increased future risks. Infants and young children in low- and middle-income countries are at greater risk for inadequate nutrition during pregnancy, as a child, and in early childhood. At the same time, these children are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods that are energy-dense and low in micronutrients, and their nutritional quality tends to be lower as well. In combination with low levels of physical activity, these diets lead to a steady increase in childhood obesity while undernutrition problems remain unsolved. As far as childhood obesity is concerned, breastfeeding duration was linked to a decreased risk. 

Factors affecting Obesity

There are several factors contributing to obesity. Some of them are:

  • Childhood weight: The weight of a person during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood may also influence the development of adult obesity. Thus, it is a better option to control body weight during childhood. 
  • Genetics: More often than not, obese people have multiple genes that predispose them to gain excess weight. Up to 43% of the population carries the fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO). This gene results in increased appetite, increased calorie intake, increased tendency to be sedentary and so on. 
  • Hormone: Women are more prone to gain weight during their pregnancy, menopause or in cases such as the use of oral contraceptives. 
  • Lifestyle: Obesity does not happen overnight but it develops gradually over time, mainly as a result of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Complications of Obesity

There are several health problems related to obesity, both independently and in conjunction with other diseases. They are:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke)
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis, a musculoskeletal disorder 
  • Some cancers (like endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, etc)
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia / Hypertriglyceridemia- 
  • Insulin resistance as fat cells are more insulin resistant than muscle cells, subsequently increasing blood glucose levels, and resulting in type 2 diabetes, once the pancreas can no longer produce high levels of insulin.
  • Sleep Apnoea- As fat accumulates in the upper respiratory tract, airways narrow, leading to hypoxia and apnea episodes, ultimately resulting in sleep apnea in obese people.
  • Severe Covid-19 infection- Obesity can lead to renal insufficiency, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, certain types of cancer and significant endothelial dysfunction. Having one of these conditions is a major risk factor for COVID-19 infection severity and death. Obesity, therefore, poses a particular threat to COVID-19.

By 2030, nearly half of the world’s population will be overweight or obese, based on current trends. Obesity is a major risk for essential hypertension, diabetes and other comorbidities that contribute to many serious diseases. Obesity is largely preventable, as are their related diseases. It can be attained by following a healthy diet, which consists of limiting the intake of fat and sugar as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, and most significantly- engaging in physical activity regularly.

Author

Navya Koshi

Navya Mariam Koshi is a diligent, self-motivated Pharm D graduate using this platform to leverage her skills in this field to provide excellent and exceptional health care services to the public.

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