Obesity – A global epidemic

weighingscale Obesity is a medical condition caused by excessive accumulation of body fat. In this age of technological advances, the need to physically move to get work done is greatly reduced. This coupled with the easy availability of food and attractive fast food options leads us to eat more than what we really need.

The most easy way to diagnose obesity is by using the BMI (Body Mass Index) values given below:

BMI is defined as weight(In kg) divided by height (In meters). The following is an indicative chart of BMI values:

BMI Values Inference
Less than 18.5 Under-weight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25-29.9 Overweight
30-39.9 Obese
40 and over Morbidly Obese

Obesity is fast becoming an epidemic, with one in three American adults being diagnosed as being obese. About 67% of the American population are now either overweight or obese.

Causes of Excess weight and Obesity

An average adult’s caloric requirement per day averages about 1500-2000 calories. Almost always, obesity results from consuming more calories
than required and lack of adequate exercise to burn of the excessive calories consumed.

  • Genetic factors – The role of heredity in obesity is exaggerated. Genetic factors are more important in determining the body fat distribution rather than the amount of body fat.
  • Endocrinal (Hormonal) disorders
    • Cushing’s syndrome which is a disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body to the hormone cortisol which mainly produces abdominal obesity.
    • Hypothyroidism occurs due to lowered levels of thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormone regulates the body’s metabolism, and hence low levels of the hormone slows the metabolism which results in weight gain.
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome results in multiple cysts forming in the ovaries due to insulin resistance affects many women and contributes to weight gain.
  • Medications – Drugs like corticosteroids and anti-depressants often cause weight gain.

Complications of Being overweight or Obese

Obesity is a lifestyle disease which results from unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity. It is more than just a cosmetic problem. Being overweight/obese reduces the quality of life and increases the risk of developing the following diseases:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholestrol levels
  • Stroke
  • Gall stones
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Many Cancers
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Sexual dysfunction

Obesity and it’s resulting complications are one of the leading cause of premature deaths, only second to premature death from cigarette smoking.

Prevention and Treatment

Irrespective of what our weight is, we can all take steps in preventing unnecessary weight gain. We can achieve this by changing our behaviour and attitude towards food and exercise. The following points help us to maintain a healthy weight, and prevent lifestyle diseases.

Diet – It plays an extremely important role when it comes to preventing and treating obesity.

  • Restrict calorie intake to 1400- 1500 calories
  • Consume a low fat, high protein diet.
  • Include atleast 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit everyday. A high fiber diet reduces the incidence of cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Avoid late night snacking.
  • Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. When very hungry, the blood sugar levels are low and there is a tendency to binge on anything that is around us which leads to consumption of empty calories. Eating often and in small quantities, helps to maintain normal blood sugar levelsand helps us to make more healthy eating choices.
  • Spice up your meals with less oil and salt but more herbs like cilantro, parsley, oregano, dill etc which not only improve flavour but also are of great nutritous value.
  • Drink plenty of water, atleast 1.5 litres per day. Replace diet soda’s and sugary drinks with water.
  • Avoid ‘crash dieting’! Calorie restriction to less than 1100 per day cannot be sustained and lead to vitamin deficiencies and illness.

exercise Exercise – The only way to burn the calories we consume is to move more. Exercise has many positive health benefits. It increases the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the amount of calories burnt when we are at rest. The higher the body’s BMR, the more calories we burn. Resistance training exercises increase muscle mass. As muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat, increasing muscle mass helps to increase the body’s BMR. Exercise also prevents lifestyle diseases like heart conditions, high cholesterol build up, diabetes, hypertension and most importantly the precursor to many of these conditions- obesity.

Other treatment options

Weight loss surgery, also known as Bariatric surgery is resorted to when diet and exercise fail to produce the desired results or in case of morbid obesity or patients with serious complications. These procedures limit the capacity of the stomach, or prevent the absorption of calories or are a combination of both. Gastric bypass surgeries and gastric banding are the most popular procedures and are performed by the surgeon, after he evaluates what is best for the patient.

Homeopathy along with diet and exercise can provide wonderful benefits in achieving safe and effective weight loss. In cases of obesity due to hormonal imbalance Homeopathic drugs work by gently restoring the hormone levels in the body. Once the hormone levels normalize it leads to easy weight loss. Homeopathic treatment takes the constitution of the patient into consideration. The constitution of the patient encompasses the physical and the mental make up of the individual and there are drugs which work on specific constitutional types. Since the treatment is holistic and customized to each patient the results obtained are also long lasting and permanent in many cases.