Obesity is one of the biggest threats facing the human race.  It is a major problem here in the UK and the West in general.  In fact, obesity is now becoming a problem in parts of the world we would never have imagined such as China, Japan and the Middle East.  Even parts of Africa are reporting cases of obesity.

This may sound overly dramatic but consider these facts:

  • By 2010 nearly 1 in 4 adults in the UK will be classed as obese.
  • By 2050 nine out of ten adults will be classed as obese.
  • By 2050 nearly two thirds of children will be classified as obese.

At present 17% of men and 21% of women are classed as obese. And by 2010 around 33% of men and 28% of women will be classed as obese.

It has been suggested that this current generation of children is likely to be outlived by its parents.  We are seeing increasing levels of obesity amongst children and teenagers which is not only blighting their lives but can even reduce their life expectancy levels.  Being obese can mean losing as much as 9 years off your life expectancy.

Medical experts are seeing an increasing number of children and teenagers with Type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related conditions which they would normally expect to see in people who are middle aged or older.  These are chronic conditions which are also potentially life threatening as well.

Obesity is never out of the media and is one of the most critical issues facing our government.  Yesterday’s newspapers (26th February 2009) reported that the numbers of people undergoing obesity surgery had risen by 40%.  The number of obesity related conditions which required admission to hospital has risen by 30% and 1.2 million people in the UK are on weight loss medication.   

Experts state that the UK, especially the NHS if facing an obesity epidemic and unless steps are taken to tackle this problem then the country as a whole is storing up serious, long term health problems. This will impact upon not only the NHS but our very lives. 

This problem is not just confined to the UK: in the US they have reported that 72 million Americans are clinically obese.  And, the WHO (World Health Organisation) states that globally, there are at least 300 million adults who are classed as obese.  These figures are for levels of obesity: they do not include the number of overweight people, here in the UK and around the world.

So, as we can see levels of obesity are rising everywhere and unless measures are taken will carry on doing so.

What is obesity?

This is the name given to the condition of chronic or excessive weight gain.  It means that you are carrying excess amounts of body fat which can cause long term health problems.

How is obesity defined?

Obesity can be defined as:

“An excess of body fat that frequently results in a significant impairment of health”.

(Ref: Weight.com
 Michael D. Myers MD)

There are numerous definitions of obesity but they all deal with the same thing; namely that of very high levels of body fat.

There are different levels of obesity which along with being overweight are measured using a BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator.  This tool performs a series of calculations based upon a person’s height, sex and weight.  For example, weight in kilograms x height in metres.  This enables your doctor or healthcare professional to assess whether you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Below 18.5 - classed as underweight
  • 18.5 to 24.9 - classed as a healthy weight (normal)
  • 25 to 29.9 - classed as overweight
  • 30 to 34.9 - classed as obese
  • 35 to 45 - classed as severely obese
  • 45 to 50 - classed as morbidly obese
  • 50 to 60 - classed as super obese
  • 60 upwards - classed as super-super obese

It is important to remember that BMI is a guide only.  These definitions apply to many people but are not suitable for the very young, very old and sportspeople.

There are also a great many people who are overweight.  Whilst this is not an ideal state it is not as serious as being obese and is easier to address.  Being overweight can mean carrying a few extra pounds, namely around the abdomen for men and the hips and thighs for women.  It can be more of an irritant than a health problem, for example, when clothes shopping but if left unchecked it can develop into obesity.

It is all too easy to think that obesity is something that only happens to a certain group of people.  That it is due to a lack of self-control, education or is simply ignorance.  It does appear to be the case that it is more likely to be found in lower socio-economic groups who for a variety of reasons end up making poor lifestyle choices.  And one of the side effects of that is obesity.    

Why has obesity become such a problem?

There is no easy answer to that question: there are a wide variety of factors which have all contributed to the worrying levels we are now seeing.  The most obvious one is that of lifestyle: we have become much more sedentary than we used to be and this coupled with a greater amount and choice of food has meant that people are generally bigger and heavier than they used to be.

Other factors include genetic predisposition, family traits, our metabolisms, lack of sleep even the type of bacteria we carry in our gut can all contribute to this problem.

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