A staggering amount of adults- 1.9 billion to be exact- were overweight in 2016, and that's not even including the 340 million children who are facing similar issues. Worse yet, 650 million of those adults were obese. This is a problem that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
What are obesity and overweight?
Being overweight or obese is having too much fat on the body, which can negatively impact one's health. A body mass index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. It is often used to check if someone falls into the category of being overweight or obese. This calculation would be taking an individual's weight in kilograms and dividing it by their height in meters squared. According to these standards, somebody is considered to be overweight if they have a BMI greater than 25; and obese if their BMI surpasses 30 .
What causes obesity and overweight?
An energy imbalance between the calories we consume and burn leads to obesity and being overweight. The main culprits globally are:
- An increased intake of energy-dense foods that contain lots of fats and sugars, and
- A sedentary lifestyle brought about by desk jobs, advances in transportation, and an increase in city living.
What are the common health consequences of being overweight and obese?
Having a raised BMI comes with many risks, some of which are:
- cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012;
- musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
- some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).
The risk of these noncommunicable diseases rises as BMI rises.
If your child is obese, they're not only at an increased risk for obesity, premature death, and disability in adulthood but also breathing difficulties, fractures, hypertension early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
How can overweight and obesity be reduced?
When it comes to overweight and obesity, as well as the non-communicable diseases related to them, prevention is key. Supportive environments and communities play a big role in shaping people’s choices, by making healthier options more accessible, available and affordable. This makes it easier for people to make healthy choices and prevents overweight and obesity.
There are a few things people can do at the individual level to make a difference, such as:
- reducing overall intake of fats and sugars;
- increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; and
- participating in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread throughout the week for adults).
Government policies that make healthy living accessible and affordable for all citizens are essential to promoting individual responsibility. Such policies might include a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, as this would encourage people to drink healthier alternatives. Making evidence-based recommendations easily available is also important in supporting individuals in following the above advice.
The food industry can promote healthy diets in several ways, including:
- reducing the fat, sugar, and salt content of processed foods;
- ensuring that healthy choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
- restricting marketing of unhealthy foods to children and teenagers; and
- supporting regular physical activity in the workplace.
It's important to be aware that obesity isn't just about how much you eat or how little you exercise; it's a complex issue with many contributing factors. As such, it requires an integrated approach that looks at both the physical and mental aspects of health. With a proper diet and regular physical activity, obesity can be managed and even reversed. So talk to your doctor if you have concerns about obesity or are trying to make healthier lifestyle changes. Taking control of your own health is the best way to reduce obesity-related risks and improve your overall well-being.