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Jamaica Scientific Research Institute
Healing the world, one disorder at a time

OBESITY

 

Obesity is considered a chronic disease that can lead to other chronic illnesses including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease among others.


Obesity is the result of the accumulation of excess fat in the body to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health.

It is not the same as being overweight, which means weighing too much.


People are considered obese when their Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 30 kg / m(sq). BMI is a person’s weight (in Kgs) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres).


The table across shows the generally accepted BMI categories:

 
 

 

 

Chronic conditions accompanying or promoted by obesity:

  • Insulin resistance, that is, the effectiveness of insulin in regulating glucose (sugar) into cells is diminished. Fat cells are more insulin resistant than muscle cells. This insulin resistance state  is one in which a high level of insulin is needed to maintain normal blood glucose levels and it can last for years. 

        In this state, the pancreas is overworked and when it         can no longer keep up with the high production levels         required by the body, blood glucose levels begin to         rise, resulting in type 2 diabetes.

         Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition.

  • Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes as described above.
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular accident or CVA)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cancer (cancer of the colon in men and women, cancer of the rectum and prostate in men, and cancer of the gall bladder and uterus and breast in women) 
  • Gallstones 
  • Gout 
  • Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) of the knees, hips, and the lower back 
  • Sleep apnea

Cause


Obesity has many causes and the reasons for the imbalance between calorie intake and consumption vary by individual.

 

Risk factors promoting Obesity

  • Genetic make-up - may play a role in how efficiently fat is metabolized, stored and distributed. 
  • Environmental factors - the most important of which is lifestyle and more specifically eating habits and activity level. Overeating and sedentary habits (inactivity) are the chief risk factors for obesity. Since the habits of family and friends inclose proximity is a potent psychological influence, Obesity tends to run in families. In such cases, environmental factors may be deemed to reinforce genetic tendencies. If one of your parents is obese, you have a higher risk of being obese. 
  • Slow metabolism
  • Physical inactivity
  • Psychological factors including depression, hopelessness, anger, boredom and many other reasons why people overeat and that have nothing to do with hunger. This doesn't mean that overweight and obese people have more emotional problems than other people. It just means that their feelings influence their eating habits, causing them to ingest more than is required.
  • Gender in that men have more muscle than women, on average. Because muscle burns more calories than other types of tissue, men use more calories than women, even at rest. Thus, women are more likely, than men, to gain weight with the same calorie intake.
 


  • Age - People tend to lose muscle mass in addition to having a slowdown in their metabolism as they get older. Both of these lower calorie requirements such that if a person continues to consume at the same rate that they did at an earlier age, they would now be more prone to becoming obese. 
  • Pregnancy - Women tend to weigh an average of 4-6 pounds more after a pregnancy than they did before the pregnancy.This can compound with each pregnancy.
  • Certain medical conditions and medications can cause or promote obesity, although these are much less common causes of obesity than overeating and inactivity. Some examples include:
      • Cushing's syndrome
      • Hypothyroidism
      • Depression
      • Certain medications such as steroids, antidepressants, anti-convulsants, birth control pills, high blood pressure medications
      • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
      • Obesity can be associated with other eating disorders, such as binge eating or bulimia.

 

Image Credit: National Institutes of Health

Symptoms


The two most common ways to measure health risks from your weight are:

  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Waist circumference (your waist measurement in inches) - Another way to estimate the amount of body fat. Extra weight around your middle or stomach area increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

        People with "apple-shaped" bodies (meaning the waist is bigger than the hips) also have an increased risk for these diseases.


Skin fold measurements may be taken to check your body fat percentage.

Blood tests may be done to look for thyroid or hormone problems that could lead to weight gain.

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For further reading and research into the causes, nature and risk factors of Obesity, you may visit the links below, among others.