Sunday, February 16, 2014
Obesity is a condition of excess body weight due to an excessively high proportion of body fat. Usually anyone who is 20 percent over the normal weight for his or her age, sex, build and height is considered obese. The person's weight is considered healthy if it falls within the acceptable range for his or her height and age; if the pattern of fat distribution does not place the person at increased risk for certain diseases; and if the person has no medical problem for which their health care provider recommends that he or she lose weight.
How much a person weighs is only part of the consideration. For healthy women, fat can account for as much as 25 percent of the body weight; 17 percent is a healthy percentage for men. Obesity may be defined as over 25 percent body fat in females and over 20 percent body fat in males. Women's bodies are designed to carry a higher proportion of fat tissue to ensure that there is plenty of fuel for pregnancy and nursing, even if food is scarce.
The average human body has 30 to 40 billion fat cells. Most of the extra calories we eat that we do not need for immediate energy are stored as fat. If we were still "hunter-gatherers" like our early ancestors, the fat would provide a needed food store for times when no food is readily available. Some researchers believe that our desire for high-calorie (especially fatty) foods may be a remnant of a survival tactic from ancient times, when we needed to store food for energy. Most Americans wait no more than four hours between meals and snacks. In our modern society, the need to store energy as fat is no longer necessary for most people. So instead of a valuable survival mechanism, the body's ability to store fat is now more likely to have a profoundly negative effect on health.
The concept that obesity is a will-power or self-discipline problem is outmoded. However, there is no clear understanding of the biochemical defects that cause it.
FREQUENT SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
• As fat accumulates, excessive body fat composition crowds space around internal organs, putting undue stress on the back, legs, and internal organs.
• Obesity increases the body's resistance to insulin and susceptibility to infection.
• Complications of pregnancy and liver damage are more common.
• Emotional problems. Obese persons suffer psychologically as well as physically. Poor self-image may develop because our society tends to equate beauty, intelligence, and success with thinness.
• Poor exercise tolerance. Excess weight increases the heart's work.
• Obesity can excerbate many physical problems and compromise health, putting one at a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, and other serious health problems that result in premature death.
• Environmental factors. These include diet and eating habits, levels of activity, stress (emotional and physical), other emotional problems, drugs, cultural factors. The most common causes of obesity are poor diet and/or eating habits and a lack of exercise.
• Genetic factors. It has always been folk wisdom that heredity is a causal factor for obesity. The discovery of the "obesity gene" in 2001 was a major breakthrough in the study of obesity. However, there are many more genes than just this one tied to obesity, and researchers are looking for these as well. What is certain is that carriers of the gene have a tendency toward obesity, assuming that other factors, not all now known, fall into place. Also known is that people of certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to carry this gene than members of other groups (for the curious, North Africans and central Europeans more often have the gene.)
• Metabolic and endocrine disorders which include glandular malfunctions, diabetes, hypoglycemia. Other factors include emotional tension, boredom, and a simple love of food. Poor nutrition may be an important factor in obesity. When there is inadequate intake of certain essential nutrients, fat is not easily or adequately burned and can accumulate in the body.
• Obesity has also been linked to food sensitivities and/or allergies. Food your body cannot use or that is poison to your system is stored in the tissues and causes water retention.
• Other factors not fully understood as yet include development factors, and physiologic regulation that involves the "set point" theory (it helps explain the difficulty obese people have in losing weight and maintaining weight loss).
• Rarely, brain damage can lead to obesity.
OBESITY INCREASES HEALTH RISKS
Being overweight is a contributing cause of many preventable illnesses. Americans are eating less fat, but are getting fatter. More than 61 percent of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excess weight and inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. This is second only to deaths related to smoking, according the CDC.
People who are overweight or obese are more likely than those of normal weight to develop heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, joint pain (gout), sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. In addition, carrying excess weight means a higher risk for cancer. At the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), researchers have concluded that obesity is consistently linked to post-menopausal breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, prostate cancer, and kidney cancer.