Obesity has become a “worldwide epidemic” with the number of Aussies considered obese now worryingly high.
This week, World Obesity Day shone light on the issue which is becoming a growing concern for a number of reasons.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics report found that a whopping 27.4% of Australian woman and 28.4% of men are obese.
Meanwhile, a World Obesity Foundation (WOF) study revealed that by 2025 the number of adults that are overweight or obese globally will reach 2.7 billion.
The condition is connected to a range of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, depression and various types of cancer.
But it comes with another cost too. It absorbs a “vast amount” of healthcare resources, WOF president Professor Ian Caterson explained.
“The annual medical costs of treating the consequences of obesity such as diabetes and heart disease is truly alarming,” he said.
If preventative measures are not taken, the yearly medical costs for treating obesity-related diseases will top US$1.2 trillion. In Australia, the figure will reach $17 billion.
So how do we tackle the issue?
Health officials are calling on governments to act urgently, by investing in services to prevent and manage the problem.
“Continual surveillance by World Obesity has shown how obesity prevalence has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and with an estimated 177 million adults suffering severe obesity by 2025, it is clear that Governments need to act now to reduce this burden on their national economies,” Caterson said.
Growing awareness among younger people is also critical.
Childhood obesity is on the rise, negatively impacting health both early and later in life. Within the next few years, the number of overweight kids will overtake the number of malnourished kids, according to WOF.
At the moment around 124 million boys children and teenagers are too fat, according to the research. Obesity levels among the age group are now ten times higher than they were four decades ago.
What defines obese?
Weight and height are used to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). For most people, BMI is a good estimate of body fat. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
Alternatively, waist-hip ratio can be used as an indicator of abdominal obesity. According to the World Health Organisation, abdominal obesity is defined by a waist–hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females.
What problems does obesity lead to?
Obesity can lead to a range of illnesses from chronic to acute. Some of these are very serious, like diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, coronary vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer. It can also cause stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure.
Studies have also shown that obese people are about 25% more likely to experience a mood disorder like depression.
Advice for people looking to lose weight
It’s easy to say eat less and exercise more, but in real life, this advice doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard.
But try and do something about it sooner rather than later.
According to Professor Amanda Salis of the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, there is a limited window of opportunity within which to act.
“After this time, carrying excess weight may become ‘hard wired’ into the parts of the brain that regulate body weight, and it may be almost impossible to make any changes at all,” she said, as reported by the University of Sydney.
“The sooner any small excess in body weight is addressed, the more likely it is that it can be reversed, thereby helping to prevent the progression to a much higher BMI and morbid obesity.”
Another way to tackle weight loss on this large scale is to aim for small improvements. Otherwise you risk triggering the body’s “fight or flight response”, according to Dr Nick Fuller, also of the Boden Institute.
“The goal is to lose a small amount of weight and then to take a break, maintaining the new body weight for a period of time before losing another small amount,” he said.
“The body is gently challenged to redefine its baseline body weight until the final weight-loss goal is achieved.”
Are you concerned by rising obesity levels?