The World Health Organization defines obesity as “an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health” (WHO, 2000). Karth, 2005 explains that obesity is a health condition, where surplus fats pile to the extent that undesirable health conditions are realized. The conditions then bring about decreased life expectancy while enhancing health problems. Many people think that fat people are obese on the contrary this is not always true. To determine obesity, a body mass index (BMI) and a weight to height index is often used. “Calculation of this BMI is often done through the division of an individual’s weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in meters” (Karth, 2005). According to the world Health Organization, a BMI equal to or more than 26 implies overweight conditions whereas a BMI equal to or more than 31 implies obese conditions.
Therefore this paper is going to focus on obesity, show the prevalence of obesity in the society, identify the solution to this problem and finally conclude by showing measures to be taken in controlling this condition.
Over the past couple of years, the prevalence of obesity has widely spread joining the major health hazards impacting negatively on people. In the United States for example, there has been a drastic rise in the percentage of obese people over the last two decades to such levels that roughly 16% of children (aged 5-12) suffer from childhood obesity as do about 16% of adolescents.
Obesity cases over the past 20 years have doubled worldwide with most of the cases being reported in the western European countries. This trend is so worrying particularly with current relationship between obesity and type II diabetes.
Childhood obesity is not only raising much concern, but this problem always graduates into adulthood according to nutritionists. Obesity cases in adults have doubled due to the increase in these cases in children. This is evidenced by the studies which show that “80% of obese children become obese adults and many children who were overweight as kids also get larger” (Karth 2005). More and more adults have been forced to deal with dangerous concerns of obesity including type II diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Based on the above statistics, it’s evident that we need to change our lifestyles because it’s taking us to a no better place. Sacrificing our health and the health of children for the purposes of making a better tomorrow through economic well being has been the norm. This in turn leads to a number of health problems or sometimes even death. It’s high time we changed our lifestyles especially our eating habits so as to have a better tomorrow.
Prevalence of obesity in our society
There are various factors that lead to obese condition but the major underlying factor is the individuals inability to burn the calories in his/her body due to overconsumption. We also have some genetic, psychological, environmental and underlying medical problems that lead to these conditions.
Genetically, scientific studies have shown that obesity is linked to heredity. The problem here comes from setting the point where genetics can be separated from heredity since most of the families share same basic diet e.g. in America, the average diet tends to include foods rich in fats. With increased competition in the retail sector, most food outlets have also increased there food portions which are often full in calories. Globally, there has also been a shift in diet in that there has been an increased intake of foods high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
In the world today physical activities have radically reduced because of rising inactive nature of the different forms of jobs, urbanization and the ease of movement. Research has also revealed that sometimes people eat too much while responding to annoyance, sadness or other unenthusiastic emotions.
Obesity has become one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world today for example according to Freedman, a BMI of over 32 is associated with a double mortality rate especially among women. He goes on to further state that “in the United States alone; deaths as a result of obesity are estimated to the range of 111,909 to 365,000 per year. This means that on average, life expectancy is reduced by about six to seven years” (Freedman 2006).
Increased morbidity is also a major consequence of obesity. According to Haslam, these diseases are commonly shown in “a combination of metabolic disorders which include: diabetes mellitus type 2, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and high triglyceride level” (Haslam 2005). “With increased number of fat cells in the body due to obesity, the body is prone to such diseases as diabetes and cancer as well as the body resistance to insulin necessitated by increased fat levels in the body” (Freedman, 2006).
Dietz (2008) shows that:
Obese children and teens have been found to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance. Research done by Dietz shows that, “in a population based sample of obese 5-to 17 year olds, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor while 39% of obese children had two or more CVD risk factors. There are also other less common health conditions that are often associated with increased weight and these include sleep anemia, Asthma, and type 2 diabetes” (Dietz, 2008).
Majority of children suffering from obesity also faces a number of psychosocial risks. These risks come in form of discrimination directed towards them by their mates. Dietz (2008) explains that, “obese children and adolescents are targets of early and systematic social discrimination”. Swartz (2003) also supports this view. According to him, “the emotional stress of social stigmatization can cause low self esteem which, in turn, can hinder academic and social functioning, and persists into adulthood.” (Swartz 2003)
Among the causes of obesity that have been widely discussed includes reduced physical activity. It’s widely accepted that the reduction in the degree of physical activities people engage in over time is the major contributor of increased obesity prevalence level. However, there is little evidence suggesting that an increase in physical activity without caloric restriction is a useful step towards obesity reduction. “To reduce obesity cases, children and teenagers should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily” (Swartz, 2003). Based on the fact that most children always imitate their adults, this can be achieved through adding of the physical activities in the daily routine and encouraging children to join.
Another possible solution to avert obesity is by helping children to avoid too much sedentary time. Time allocated to children for watching television, surfing the web and playing video games should be limited because this only leads to a generation of couch potatoes who only vegetate in front of the television. “In the guideline document, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children aged 2 or younger. Children should instead be encouraged to find fun activities involving other family members or on their own” (Karth, 2005).
High levels of calories in the body have been identified as the key cause of obesity. Efforts should be put into balancing of calories level in the body. “This balancing can be done by eating foods which provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories” (Swartz, 2003). According to the United States National centre for disease control and prevention (2000), “you can help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier and reducing calorie rich temptations”. Plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains products should again be provided, sugar and sweetened beverages should be limited in addition to encouraging drinking of lots of water. Foods rich in calories should be avoided or consumed at low quantities. Such foods include; snacks high in fat, sugar or salt.
Basing on the aforementioned factors, obesity is a chronic disorder that has multiple causes. Overweight and obesity have significant impacts on both physical and psychological health. In addition, psychological disorders such as depression occur with increased frequency in obese persons. On the other hand, overweight persons are more likely to have cardiovascular and digestive diseases in adulthood as compared with those who are lean (Karth, 2005).
It is believed that “over-consumption of calories and reduced physical activity result in obesity. Primary or secondary prevention could be the key plan for controlling the current epidemic of obesity. These strategies are more effective in children than in adults” (Karth, 2005).
“A number of potential effective plans can be implemented to enhance physical activity, and proper diet. The strategies can be initiated at home, in preschool institutions, schools or after-school care services as natural settings for influencing diet and physical activity” (Karth, 2005). Nevertheless, more studies are supposed to look into the most efficient strategies of intercession, avoidance, and treatment of this condition. The strategies are supposed to be culture specific, ethnical, and reflect on the social and economical elements of the society. When this is done this issue can be effectively mitigated.
Dietz, B. (2008) Obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Philadelphia: Open university press.
Freedman, D. (2006) Diabetes and obesity. Journal on obesity, 7 (2), pp. 54- 74.
Haslam, D. (2005) Obesity and diabetes. Routledge: London.
Karth, J. (2005) Obesity. New York, NY: Oxford University press.
Swartz, M. (2003) Effects of obesity. Journal on the effects of obesity, 94(9), pp. 213-226.
United States National Centre for disease control and prevention. 2000. Dietary guidelines. Web.
WHO. (2000) Obesity. International Journal on obesity, 9 (12), pp. 153-162.