OBESITY.

Obesity is a multi-factorial disorder, which is often associated with many other significant diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis and certain cancers. The management of obesity will therefore require a comprehensive range of strategies focussing on those with existing weight problems and also on those at high risk of developing obesity. Hence, prevention of obesity during childhood should be considered a priority, as there is a risk of persistence to adulthood. This article highlights various preventive aspects and treatment procedures of obesity with special emphasis on the latest research manifolds.

Obesity can be described as the “New World Syndrome”. Its prevalence is on continuous rise in all age groups of many of the developed countries in the world. Statistical data reveals that the problem of obesity has increased from 12–20% in men and from 16–25% in women over the last ten years [1]. Recent studies suggest that nearly 15–20% of the middle aged European population are obese [2] and that in USA alone it is responsible for as many as 3,00,000 premature deaths each year [3]. Obese patients have been associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality relative to those with ideal body weight [4]. Even modest weight reduction in the range of 5–10% of the initial body weight is associated with significant improvements in a wide range of co-morbid conditions [59]. Obesity, which was once viewed as the result of lack of will power, or a lifestyle “choice” – the choice to overeat and under exercise, is now being considered more appropriately by the modern world as a chronic disease, which requires effective strategies for its management.

Obesity, in simple terms, may be defined as a state of imbalance between calories ingested versus calories expended which would lead to excessive or abnormal fat accumulation. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of weight corrected for height and which reflects the total body fat and has been the most accepted parameter for defining over weight [10].

Optimal BMI increases with age. WHO also classified over weight according to BMI [11]. There is a very good correlation between BMI and the percentage of body fat in large populations.

Percent Body fat = 1.2 (BMI) + 0.23 (age) – 10.8 (gender) – 5.4

Where gender = ‘1’ for men and ‘0’ for women.

It follows from this equation that for a given height and weight, the percentage of body fat is about 10% higher in women compared to men. The reason for this could be that in women, the excess body fat is usually distributed as subcutaneous fat and is mainly peripheral (thighs, buttocks, breasts) where as in men there is a relative excess of body fat stored in abdominal cavity as abdominal subcutaneous fat.

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