The effect of obesity on the body

Obesity is, and has been for a long time, a hot topic. The stats on obesity are startling… The World Health Organisation (WHO) report that global obesity rates have tripled since 1975. In 2016, it was estimated that 1.9 billion adults were overweight across the world, with a third of those being obese (this stat rose to 2.1 billion in 2019). In that same year, 41 million children under 5 years of age were classified as overweight or obese. This is worrying stuff. But what is obesity, and what does it mean to be obese?

What is obesity?

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Obesity (and being overweight) is defined by the WHO as “the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. Obesity is traditionally measured using a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing their weight by their height (in metres) squared.  A BMI which equates to 25 or over is classified as overweight… 30 or more equals obese. Due to the inability to distinguish gender and fat from muscle, the process is flawed. The Relative Fat Mass index (RFM) which takes into account someone’s gender, height and waist circumference is a more accurate tool in measuring someone’s fat mass and their risk of developing health problems from it.

Effects of obesity on the body

Now we know what obesity is, let’s explore what this means for the body. These are some of the known negative side effects of being obese:

  • Increased risk of numerous diseases: With obesity comes an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, respiratory conditions including sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallstones, menstrual issues, incontinence, many types of cancer, and mental illness (e.g. depression).
  • Increased risk of death: Being obese puts you at increased risk of death from all causes, but especially relating to cardiovascular disease (e.g. heart attack/failure).
  • Complications during pregnancy: Mother and baby are both at risk. Mothers are more likely to develop high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, as well as difficulties during labour and retaining weight post-pregnancy. For the baby, the risk of late fatal death increases, as does the risk for developing neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida).
  • Increased levels of pain: Evidence suggests obesity puts the body in an inflammatory state causing pain. Increased load on the joints leads to breakdown of cartilage which drives more inflammation. There is an increased rate of depression which exacerbates the pain experience as well. People then become afraid to move through pain and being sedentary means lack of movement through the joints, and they continue to degenerate. It’s a vicious cycle!
  • Poor quality of life: Obesity makes life hard. Carrying out everyday tasks becomes laborious. All of a sudden, hanging out the washing and cleaning the house or car can seem harder than they should do. It can also affect people’s desire to go out and be social. People who are obese are also at risk of developing undesirable body odour which can make social situations difficult.

The side effects of being overweight, especially obese, are many and very serious. It is simple… Being obese will increase your chances of serious disease and death, as well as impact your life negatively in many other ways.

It is daunting and challenging trying to lose weight. If you need help, please talk to us during your next visit here at Inner West Health Clinic and we will be happy to discuss options with you. We can work alongside your GP, or other health professionals, to help work out what the best and safest option is for you – getting you on the right track to a healthier, happier self.

References

  1. World Heath Organisation. 2020. Obesity. [Online]. Available from: https://www.who.int/topics/obesity/en/. [Accessed 01 Feb 2020]
  2. Kobo, et al. 2019. Relative fat mass is a better predictor of dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome than body mass index. Cardiovascular Endocrinology & Metabolism. 8 (3). 77-81. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/cardiovascularendocrinology/Fulltext/2019/09000/Relative_fat_mass_is_a_better_predictor_of.4.aspx
  3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institutes. 1998. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obese Adults: The Evidence Report. National Institutes of Health. No. 98-4083. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/ob_gdlns.pdf
  4. McVinnie, DS. 2013. Obesity and pain. British Journal of Pain. 7 (4). 163-170. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590160/
  5. NHS. 2019. Body Odour. [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/body-odour-bo/. [Accessed 01 Feb 2020]

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