Obesity and overweight has become a major health issue across the world. It was once considered a problem only in developed countries but now it has dramatically risen even in the developing and underdeveloped nations, especially in urban settings. According to the WHO projections, at least one third of the world's population is overweight and one-fifth of the world's people are obese.
The prevalence of obesity in India has also risen significantly. The National Family Health Survey 2006 data revealed that more than 11 percent of urban population in India was overweight and about 3 percent was obese. The number has risen significantly since then, no doubt.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as 'the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health'. Obesity is roughly measured by the body mass index (BMI), calculated as the person's weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in meters). A BMI of 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 is obese.
Obesity is a consequence of complex interaction of genetics, diet metabolism and physical activity levels and a major health risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and even certain cancers.
What affects the weight status and who is affected? Several studies have shown that women tend to put on more weight as compared to that of men. In women, the extra energy (from excess calorie consumption and low level of physical activity) gets converted into fat.
Similarly, the older you grow, the more you tend to become overweight. The highest increase is generally in the age group of 50 to 60 years after which it declines. Despite the higher prevalence of overweight and obesity in the older age group, preventive measures should be directed in the younger age group, say the scientists, so that later the impact of overweight and obesity could be mitigated.
Overweight and obesity is one disorder that is largely preventable. The key is to have an energy balance between calories consumed on one hand and calories expended on the other hand. Not only the calories, but the pattern of food consumption should also be paid attention to. So, avoid fried foods and red meats, and limit eating out.
The WHO recommends the following for energy balance:
- Shift from consuming saturated fats to consuming unsaturated fats.
- Increase fruit and vegetable intake.
- Consume plenty of legumes, whole grains and nuts.
- Limit sugar intake.
- Boost your levels of physical activity to at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days.
Reduce fat, be fit, be healthy!