Obesity refers to an excessive accumulation of fat in the body. Although this is often measured by an increase in body weight, it is not an accurate indicator as muscular individuals are generally heavier yet not obese. When a person starts consuming more calories than required, it leads to fat deposition in the body since fat is the main storage form for nutrients. Appearance of fat layers around abdomen, thighs and arms is the typical signs of obesity.
The calorie turnover rate is a metabolic property that may vary from person to person. Genetic makeup, eating habits and physical activity regulates the body fat content. Obesity increases the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Controlled diet and increased physical activity could effectively control obesity. In certain extreme cases, medications or surgical procedures prove effective.
Although body weight greater than 20% of the normal healthy weight is considered as obesity, it is better calculated in terms of body mass index (BMI). The BMI of a person is simply the ratio of weight to height. BMI of :
- 25 or more is overweight.
- 30 or more is obese.
- 40 or more is morbid obesity.
However, BMI does not directly measure body fat. Waist to hip ratio and body fat calculation is also important in diagnosing obesity although the condition is grossly visible.
- Unhealthy eating habits is by far the biggest contributor to obesity in today’s society. Excessive intake of high calorie foods, irregular meals and large meals may cause one to become overweight. Food rich in sugar, fat or carbohydrates are the biggest contributors.
- Lack of physical activity does not burn the excess calories therbey leading to fat storage.
- Genetic factors may lead to some people having a slower yet normal metabolism largely due to hormonal factors. However, obesity will only arise with poor eating habits in these instances as well.
- Psychological state is another factor as some people tend to eat more when they feel depressed or undergo stress.
- Pregnancy weight gain is normal but some women have difficulty shedding the weight after childbirth. Obesity after pregnancy is a common problem and partly due to hormonal fluctuations and poor eating habits, psychological state and a sedentary lifestyle.
- Medical conditions such as thyroid dysfunction (particularly hypothyroidism), Pradervilli’s syndrome or Cushing syndrome contribute to weight gain and obesity.
- Lack of sleep or a deviation from normal sleep-wake schedule triggers cravings for food at odd hours. A continued practice of late rising may induce overeating, leading to obesity.
Calorie restriction through dietary change is the cornerstone of any obesity treatment plan. This should be integrated with an exercise program, combining aerobic exercise and weight training. Counseling and support groups are also important components of any weight loss program.
Medical interventions offer relief in cases where a change of diet and exercises does not help. Common weight loss medications include orlistat, lorcaserin and phentermine. However, their effects may vary from person to person. Surgical removal of fat (liposuction) and gastric surgery for weight loss are considered as last efforts in the treatment of obesity.