How to Avoid the Obesity Epidemic

November 12, 2012

How to Avoid the Obesity Epidemic

More and more Americans and other nationalities are becoming obese with all the additional risks that being overweight brings.

The lifestyles of modern Americans and many people in the west just lends itself to a sedentary style. People travel by bus, train or plane, work in an office and play computer games. Not very long ago the average person walked or rode a bike, many people did hard graft, working in agriculture or other industries and playing was something that you did outside in fields or pitches.

This is the background to the next epidemic which is hitting right now, that of obesity.

The figures are frightening; in the U.S. about 66% of the adult population is overweight. A third of these people are obese. But it’s not just an American problem, the world has more than one billion overweight adults, and 300 million are obese. Remember the world’s population has only just reached seven billion, so that means about 14% of those on the planet are overweight.

Developing countries sometimes have as high as 5% of their citizens classed as obese. Although the Chinese obesity rate is low, one report stated that there is in excess of 40 million Chinese who are obese, and this figure is growing every year. In Samoa the rate of obesity is a staggering 75%.

Looking to the future we can see that today’s rates for childhood obesity are growing year on year too. In the U.S. the number of overweight children has doubled since 1980, the rate of growth for overweight teens was 300%. Again it is not just an American issue, in Thailand it was found that obesity in youngsters grew 3% in just two years.

Obesity – The world is changing

The simple answer to why there are more obese people in the world today is that they are eating more calories than their bodies are expending in work throughout the day. However other factors are also at work. It is now so much easier to get nutrient rich foods and many foods are made with added fat. We also have a different lifestyle from previous years. People want their food quickly and many of these foods also have extra sugar, we are also eating larger portions.

In developing countries there is also a further reason, particularly for childhood obesity. It is seen as good to have the wealth to feed your children in the Western way. In some countries a burger or fried chicken can cost almost a day’s wages to the ordinary worker, so if you can be seen buying these then you are gaining ‘face’ and your children are gaining weight and developing bad eating habits. Because education can be so rudimentary in these regions trying to successfully teach the benefits of healthy eating may be a long way off.

Genes do play a very small part in obesity but recent research has indicated that the influence of the genes can be overcome by doing regular exercise. A bigger factor is that we are becoming more inactive yet eating more than before.

The World health Organization (WHO) has highlighted that being obese can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and even some types of cancer. In the end being obese can seriously affect your quality of life and may even contribute to an early death.

Obesity and Overweight – What’s the difference?

Obesity and being overweight are both the same thing except that obesity means that the person is fatter and heavier. The degrees of excess weight are measured using a tool known as Body Mass Indicator (BMI). This is a general tool which divides your weight, in kilograms, by your height squared, in metres. The number should be followed by kg/m2, however normal convention drops the unit off. Measures of BMI are normally only given as a number.

If you are an adult and your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 then you are overweight, but 30 or higher means that you are obese.

Checking children’s BMI is slightly more complex because differences in body fat between boys and girls at different ages. Health professional also use different labels for youngsters to define their position on the scale.

Obesity: What’s the answer?

The WHO accepts that the problem is real and very large and is promoting an integrated plan with the aim of cutting rates of obesity worldwide. Some of the points that it is addressing are to promote more exercise and eating healthily. Inform people of the benefits of eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Encourage people to exercise for 30 minutes or more everyday and remain active. The use of vegetable oils should take precedence over animal based fats and people should cut down on fatty and sugary foods.

The WHO also wants to develop public policies which endorse a low fat, high fiber diet to get the public to eat healthier. Healthcare professionals are to receive further training to allow them to give help more efficiently to obese people who are trying to lose weight and also to give advice to stop others from becoming obese.

On a personal level we all must try to do a little more. Walk whenever possible, avoid sugary foods and remain active. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and your weight should never become an issue.

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