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Understanding Obesity: Basic Things You Need to Know

Last Updated Nov 15, 2021

Understanding Obesity: Basic Things You Need to Know

Statistics gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that an estimated 2.6 million people die yearly because of obesity. Obesity is best described as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat that poses serious health risks to those affected.

A person's body fat can normally be measured by calculating the body mass index or BMI. Your BMI is computed by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. A BMI of 30 or more is said to indicate obesity while a BMI of at least 25 is already a sign that a person is overweight. A body mass of 40 or higher is categorised as severe obesity. Also known as morbid obesity, this type of obesity is fatal. Extremely obese persons not only have difficulty carrying out daily activities, even breathing, but they are also at risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.  

Causes & health risks of being obeseSource: Medindia

Obesity is a common risk factor that has been observed in many life-threatening diseases. It can lead to Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, and even cancer. While a family history of obesity may make being overweight inevitable for some, obesity can still be prevented with proper weight management that necessarily includes a healthy diet and good energy balance.

What increases your risk of obesity?

While the development of obesity is linked to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, there are several other contributing factors to excess weight gain. Some of the major risk factors for this global burden of disease include:

Environmental factors

Even normal-weight people are at risk of becoming obese if they constantly consume a large portion size or have the habit of eating fast food, which we all know is packed with high fat and sodium. 

Genetic factors

Some people with obesity problems may owe their troubles to their genes. Research indicates that a mutation in the melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R), which is responsible for controlling energy, food intake, and body weight, causes people to store excess fat. It is often the cause of childhood obesity. 

Medical conditions

The prevalence of obesity can also be attributed to certain conditions. Among them is hypothyroidism, which slows down your metabolism and causes weight gain since your thyroid gland produces too little hormone. A dysfunctional hypothalamus may also lead to hypothalamic obesity in some obese children.

Sleep deprivation

A lack of sleep increases the production of ghrelin, the appetite stimulating hormone, and decreases leptin, the appetite curbing hormone. This explains why people who are sleep deprived gain excess body fat quickly.

What treatment options are available for obesity?

People suffering from obesity have many treatment options to help them regain their normal weight and manage their condition. Each treatment plan varies depending on how obese the person is. Although bariatric surgery, such as gastric banding, is thought to be the most effective solution, it is actually the last resort if all other methods have failed. Choosing a health professional who specialises in weight loss is the best way to ensure success.

Some natural therapies that have been proven effective in resolving obesity and other weight issues include:

Things that you can do to avoid excessive weight gain

Reduce or limit your intake of high-calorie foods

Animal fat and sugar-laden products are packed with lots of calories. Sugar is particularly notorious because a small amount of it carries a high-calorie count. While your body needs to get energy from the food you eat, it is best to get your calories from unsaturated fat rather than from saturated fat. Saturated fat solidifies under low temperatures and is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Examples of saturated fat are those coming from pork, lamb, and beef, whole milk, cream cheese and ice cream. Good sources of unsaturated fat include olives, avocado, almond, peanut, salmon, sardines and other cold-water fishes.

Fill up on natural foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts

Eating healthy to prevent obesity

Most processed foods contain high amounts of fat, sugar or sodium but are deficient in vitamins and minerals. These do nothing more than fill up your stomach without actually nourishing your body.

Thus, it is possible to observe the health problems of obesity and under-nutrition coexisting in certain people, as is the case in some low-income countries where a growing number of people fight their hunger by turning to high-fat and high-sodium processed food because these are inexpensive choices.

What most people fail to realize is that it is still possible to eat healthy food on a tight budget. Fresh fruits that are in season are inexpensive and delicious. Vegetables and whole grains are packed with fiber that will not only help you feel full but will also give you most of the essential nutrients that your body needs to function well.

Increase your physical activity

Your body's weight depends on the number of calories you burn versus the number of calories you consume daily. It is said that the body must burn an average of 500 calories per day in order to lose 500 grams of weight per week. Engaging in moderate-intensity exercises for at least 30 minutes, 4 to 5 days each week, is a great way to increase your energy expenditure and maintain a healthy weight. 

Ready to win the battle against obesity? Contact a natural health professional near you through the Natural Therapy Pages' practitioner listings.

Originally published on Jun 13, 2009

FAQs About Obesity

What are the three types of obesity?

A person's body fat content determines how obese they are. A body mass index of 30 to 34.9 indicates class 1 obesity. Class 2 obesity is defined as a BMI between 35 and 39.9. If a patient's BMI exceeds 40, he or she has class 3 obesity.

What exercise burns the most fat?

Personal trainers recommend high-impact exercises to lose weight efficiently. These include running, cycling, jogging and jumping jacks, to name a few. Swimming can also help burn calories.

What's the difference between fat and obese?

Besides providing energy and keeping the body warm, fat tissue also supports a wide range of other body functions. However, too much body fat, which is the case with obese people, can clog your blood vessels and lead to heart disease.

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