What does it mean to be overweight?
As per the World Health Organization, overweight is described as an excess fat accumulation. It is categorized based on an index called BMI (Body Mass Index). It is a simple index of weight for height which should ideally be between 18.5-24.9. Values above 25 are considered to be overweight whereas above 30 is considered as obesity. However, this indicator is not used for children and the geriatric population. They are classified on the basis of their age: weight ratio.
As per the 2016 data, it is estimated that more than 1.9 billion people worldwide are overweight. Out of these 650 million people are obese and 340 million are below 18 years. This totals up to 31% of the world population. According to the best nutritionist in Mumbai, a steady rise has been observed in the obesity index from 6% in 1975 to 31% in 2020, and still counting. The factors associated with this are considered to be a rise in physical inactivity, advanced medicines, unhealthy meal pattern and lack of awareness.
Ever given a thought how does it affect an individual? It leads to Lifestyle Ailments!
Being Overweight = Inviting Lifestyle Ailments
Overweight is a non-communicable disease which increases the mortality and morbidity in the population. Here is a list of associations it has with the lifestyle ailments:
- It often results in insulin resistance which is directly related to the degree of fatness in the body, especially in the abdominal region. This in turn increases the adiposity and plasma lipid levels below the skin (termed as subcutaneous fat), thereby increasing the risk of (NIDDM) non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and CVD (cardiovascular risk). If not addressed, it might result in MI (Myocardial Infarction) / Stroke.
- Hypertension is a condition where the force of blood towards the arterial wall is too high. This can be a result of poor nutritional status and a higher torso (upper body), which in return accumulates more fat. Due to this process, there is an increase in the fatty tissue in the arterial walls which leads to vascular resistance. More the resistance increases, more is the pressure on the heart to pump blood. The risk of high blood pressure is 75% lower in individuals who are normal weight.
- Sleep Apnea is another disorder which is directly related to the weight of an individual. This is a term describing breathing abnormalities during sleep. Since an overweight individual might have higher fat accumulation in the neck, arm and chest, it might block the airway. It initially starts with snoring, heading towards inflammation and shorter periods of breathlessness. Hence it is important to decrease the neck and chest fat.
- Reproductive malfunctioning is often associated with high fat deposition, thereby affecting the hormonal activities. In women, it can result in PCOS (Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and men it can lead to a low sperm count or infertility. This is because all the hormones in the body are protein in nature and higher fat deposition lowers the muscle percentage of the body. The energy in turn gets deposited as fat in the muscles.
- Arthritis or joint pain is common as the weight increases above normal. This is because it puts a pressure on the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness as well as wear and tear. Moreover, since high body fat can restrict the blood flow, it can further result in inflammation.
- Being overweight is also linked to genetic mutations and cancer. Even though research is still ongoing, it is believed that fat cells release certain hormones which results in abnormal yet rapid cell growth. This multiplies every minute thereby spreading the cancer throughout an individual’s body. The highest death rates have been observed in case of colon, liver, gallbladder, kidney and rectum carcinoma.
Effect on the Overall Quality of Life
Scientists state that more than 30% overweight individuals worldwide suffer from anxiety and mood swings. This is regardless of age, gender and socioeconomic status. As per the best nutritionist in Delhi, an increased BMI significantly results in eating disorders (highest among teenagers), personality disorders (adults), fear and depression. They undergo societal pressure and crave for acceptance. This in turn has increased the suicidal attempts by 45% in the past 5 years. It not only hampers the mental health of a growing population, but also invites lifestyle disorders. If the rate of obesity increases by 10% every 5 years, then the country would be left with 90% individuals having a poor quality of life!!
The Role of Nutrition
Eating habits are voluntary behaviors and can be modified by balancing the energy intake and expenditure. The efforts to map the dietary intake has to be focused on an individual’s internal makeup i.e. their genes. It is advisable to encourage people of all age groups to monitor their routine and start with consuming meals on time. These meals should comprise of 50-60% carbohydrates, 20-25% protein, 10-20% fat, vitamins and minerals; which will speed up the metabolism and help in more nutrient absorption. However, it is necessary to discover the individual capacity and mental status before detailed planning.