Obesity, according to the WHO, is a disease. Mild overweight is not. The difference is that the latter is a natural reaction organisms have developed, in order to survive. This mechanism, it is said, will always store extra calories which can be converted into energy later, when the need arises.
Obesity (BMI > 30) happens when the fat-storing mechanism in the body gets totally out of control. The result is not natural. It's not survival oriented then; on the contrary, obesity is a very serious disease which ultimately kills the sufferer in one way or the other. As an example: only smoking exceeds obesity in its contribution to total mortality rates in the United States.
There are many theories about overweight and obesity, and many of them agree on the simple fact that they are caused by a caloric imbalance; taking in more calories than we burn. But the fact is that obesity can't be explained so easily. There are many more contributing factors that put together explain better why this disease develops in some overweight people, but not in all of them.
- Overweight and obesity are defined by the WHO as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health". Body mass index (BMI) – the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2) – is a commonly used index to classify overweight and obesity in adults. WHO defines overweight as a BMI equal to or more than 25, and obesity as a BMI equal to or more than 30.
- Worlwide, one billion adults are overweight and more than 300 million are obese. At least 2.6 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese. Globally, over 42 million children under five years of age are overweight. Once associated with high-income countries, obesity is now also prevalent in low- and middle-income countries.
- The Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity sites the following health consequences directly related to obesity: premature death, heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems, arthritis, reproductive complications, cancer (colon, gall bladder, prostate, kidney and postmenopausal breast cancer), gall bladder disease, incontinence, increased surgical risk, and several mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Other obesity adverse health consequences are: high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, stroke, skin problems, disability and social isolation.
Is some overweight natural?
Like many other medical conditions, obesity is the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Polymorphisms in various genes controlling appetite and metabolism predispose to obesity when sufficient calories are present. The percentage of obesity that can be attributed to genetics varies widely, depending on the population examined, from 6% to 85%. As of 2006, more than 41 sites on the human genome have been linked to the development of obesity when a favorable environment is present.
Most of us in the industrialized world enjoy a super abundance of food, so there's a constant feast tempting situation going on. Modern life bids for very little physical exertion, something that has taken from us a very effective way to burn calories and regulate appetite.
Those who listen to their bodies and have the knowledge to apply sensible eating and fitness habits are the ones among the mildly overweight who can avoid developing the obesity disease. Those who fail in this purpose, do so not only because of lack of will power, but because the combinations of obesity risk factors in their life is very high.
The most common obesity risk factors
In fact, obesogenic is a term that has been coined to describe a permissive environment that both promotes food intake and discourages physical activity. With an abundance of convenient, palatable, energy-dense foods and increasingly fewer demands for physical activity in usual lifestyles, the contemporary environment enables the energy balance to be tipped in favor of weight gain.
- History of obesity; George A. Bray
- 10 facts on obesity; World Health Organization.
- Overweight and Obesity: Health Consequences; The Surgeon General.
- Obesity; WebMD.
- Obesity factors; Mayo Clinic.
- Environmental Factors Influencing Obesity; Bonnie J. Brehm, David A. D’Alessio.
- Lipocytes; A.D.A.M. Health solutions
- Genetic epidemiology of obesity; Oxford Journals
- Obesity and cardiovascular disease: pathophysiology, evaluation, and effect of weight loss; Poirier P, Giles TD, Bray GA
- Rethinking thin: The new science of weight loss; Kolata, Gina.
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