obesity problem

Obesity as a Medical and Social Problem

Obesity is a medical problem that occurs when a person carries extra weight or body fat. A doctor will usually suggest that a person has obesity whether they have a high body mass index.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool used by physicians to determine if a person is at the appropriate weight for age, sex, and height. The calculation is a combination of height and weight.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates that an individual has excess weight. A BMI of 30 or more indicates that a person may have obesity.

Other considerations also play a part in determining how good a person’s weight and body shape are. These include: 

  • The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR)
  • The waist-to-height ratio (WtHR)
  • The amount and distribution of fat on the body

If a person has an obesity problem and extra weight, this may increase their risk of developing various health problems. These include metabolic syndrome, arthritis, and some cancer forms.

Metabolic syndrome involves collecting problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc.

Maintaining a healthier weight or losing weight and exercise is one way to prevent or reduce obesity. In certain cases, a person may need to undergo surgery.

Obesity as a Medical Problem

The obesity problem is very common in the world’s population. Nowadays, it is starting to replace infectious diseases as the most important contributor to ill health. Obesity problem, in particular, is linked with: 

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Certain types of cancer 
  • Sleep-breathing disorders

Obesity is characterized by a body mass index of 30 or greater. However, this does not consider the morbidity and mortality associated with more modest degrees of overweight or the adverse impact of intra-abdominal fat. The global epidemic of obesity results from: 

  • Genetic susceptibility 
  • Increased availability of high-energy food and 
  • Reduced desire for physical activity in western society

We can no longer view obesity simply as a cosmetic problem impacting many people. But we have to view it as an epidemic that affects global well-being.

Medical causes of obesity problem may include:

Hypothyroidism. This is a disorder in which the thyroid gland develops too little thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone controls our metabolism. So too little hormone slows down metabolism and also causes weight gain. If your doctor believes that thyroid disease is a cause of obesity, they check your hormone levels.

The Cushing Syndrome. This disorder occurs when the adrenal glands release an excess of cortisol steroid hormone. This leads to fat build-up in distinct areas such as the face, upper back, and abdomen.

Depression. Some people with depression may overeat, which may lead to obesity.

There are also some inheritable diseases and other diseases of the brain that can induce weight gain.

Certain medications may also cause an increase in body weight. These include steroids and antidepressants, antipsychotics, blood pressure drugs, seizure medications.

Your doctor can decide if any of these conditions or therapies are responsible for your obesity.

Obesity as a Social Problem

The childhood obesity problem is becoming more and more common. The recent Health Study for England showed that 22-31 percent of 6-15 year-olds were overweight. And 10-17 percent were obese. SIGN recently published a Guideline on Child Obesity Management. It emphasizes diet and exercise as key areas for a lifestyle change.

We do not disagree with any of the guidance. But we will sound a note of caution. We’re not sure that we can offer to ‘manage’ any but a few cases of an underlying medical disorder. Obese patients also find it difficult to accept that their lifestyle causes their problems. Medicalizing it can make the doctor, not the patient, responsible for their inability to improve. There is no validated lifestyle of obesity strategy, which is reflected in the recommendation grades (all Cs and Ds) in the guideline.

Health advice is beneficial. But the consequences for society are much broader.

Children and adults are encouraged to eat more. Standard meals are a thing of the past. A ‘meal deal’ sandwich arrives with crisps and a sweetened drink, also have an extra 25% free of cost. In the burger counter, ‘going large’ doubles the calorie consumption of a few pence. Meanwhile, the importance of fitness has been undermined. Children no longer walk or ride to school because of perceived road safety risks and pedophiles. Loss of play areas also reduced opportunities for school sports. Most children now spend more time playing video games on a computer than playing a real ball.

Medical advice competes with powerful commercial and social forces. This should not stop us from advising obese patients. But we should be careful not to be responsible for a problem we cannot control. Doctors should advocate for an end to aggressive fast-food marketing, particularly for young people. They should provide education to encourage children to eat healthily and exercise daily. The new ‘Eat 2b Fit’ campaign by the British Dietetic Association is an example. We should use the SIGN guidance as a starting point for more initiatives of this kind.

Obesity problem prevention for adults

Many of these tips for preventing obesity are the same for losing or maintaining a healthier weight.

Consume less “bad” fat and more “good” fat

Contrary to the belief behind the low-fat diet of the ’90s, not all fat is bad. Published in the Nutrition Article, healthy dietary fats can lower cholesterol levels. Thus, it can decrease the risk of obesity.

Consume less processed and sugary food

According to a 2016 report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the intake of processed and ultra-processed food is associated with a higher risk of obesity.

Eat more servings of salads and fruit

Filling your plate with vegetables and fruit can keep calories reasonable and reduce overeating.

Eat plenty of dietary fiber

Studies continue to show that dietary fiber plays a part in the maintenance of weight. Researchers found that people who took a fiber complex supplement three times a day for 12 weeks lose up to 5% of their body weight.

Get the family involved in your journey

Social support is not just about children and adolescents. It’s also for adults to feel supported if cooking with family or walking with friends. Getting people involved can support a healthy lifestyle.

The Bottom Line

A healthy weight is important to maintain good health. Taking action to prevent obesity problems in daily life is a good first step. Even small changes, such as consuming vegetables and going to the gym, can prevent obesity.

If you’re interested in a more personalized approach to your diet, a dietitian or dietitian may provide you with the tools to get started.

Meeting with a personal fitness instructor can help you discover the best physical activities.

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