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Some estimates have put a tab on the healthcare costs of developed nations as anywhere between 2- 7%. While nations are making positive strides in economic development, social profiles are also changing due to better incomes and modified lifestyles. This has also brought about a paradigm shift in eating habits, for the worse.
'Nutritional Transition' as it is called, adversely affects health when it exists amid a combination of high stress, longer working hours and sedentary lifestyle. Ironically, this is also being called the 'problem of plenty' in the industrialized world.
The sobriquet of 'Globesity' for Global Obesity rests uncomfortably amid the staggering statistics of people 'blown out of proportion'. It is time for the bugle to be blown to commence the battle of the bulge!
Bursting the Obesity Bubble
The Body Mass Index calculation which employs the equation of height and weight according to a specified formula is used to indicate overweight and obesity. A body mass index of 30 or greater is considered to be obese. A BMI of 25 or more is considered to be overweight.
The 'globesity' statistics is alarming - In China, 12% of men and 16% of women are obese. In America, almost 35% of women and 20% of men are battling the bulge. The figures are only expected to double by 2015.
A booming economy has a flip side too! Better goods and services have unleashed a host of conveniences, leading people into an apparent comfort zone of reduced physical activity. With increase in incomes, people indulge in gastronomic delights with unflinching regularity, not worried about its repercussion on health.
As time is essence to the jet setting generation, processed foods still rule the palate, leading to expanding waistlines. Mexico is testimony to this- 58% of the population is overweight and 23% is obese.
India is not far behind, living up to its status of the 'Diabetes Capital of the World.' Going by the trend, there will be 30 million diabetics by 2020, experts forecast. The leading cause of diabetes is obesity, data reveals. The perpetuation of this trend is undoubtedly an ominous foreboding for some 7.63 million Indians, who might not live to see the end of 2020, mainly due to chronic diseases related to obesity.
According to WHO estimates, deaths due to diabetes and heart disease drain the exchequer by a mammoth $210 billion annually; this is due to lost productivity and premature death. The figures are slated to shoot up to $335 billion in the coming decade.
Escalating obesity figures world-wide has also paved the way for extensive research on magic pills or drugs that can reduce hunger. According to Dr.Louis J. Aronne, Clinical Professor of medicine at Cornell University and former president of the Obesity Society, just when research produces a drug to reduce hunger and instill satiation, the body simply grows out of it in record time. That is probably the reason for the restricted action of diet drugs - dieters are known to lose only about 5% of their body weight with diet drugs.
The causes of overweight and obesity may differ with individuals. Genes play a prominent role. For some, cessation of smoking results in weight gain. While for others, weight gain may be the result of a sedentary lifestyle.
Some people are constitutionally overweight and are seen battling the bulge throughout their lives. Thyroid problem also slackens the metabolic rate resulting in overweight or obesity.
Childhood Obesity - All Food and No Play Makes Jack a Fat Boy!
True to the cliché that healthy parents raise healthy children, an estimated 22 million children world wide below the age of five are overweight.
According to a report published by the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, more than 50% of the children in North and South America are predicted to be overweight by 2020. The European Union is no better, where 38% of the children are slated to be in the danger zone of chronic diseases by 2020, if they do not check the obesity trend. In China, one among 5 children is expected to be overweight by 2010.
Upon analysis of data complied by the WHO, the reasons for these statistics boiled down to two main reasons - sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits. Genetic predisposition also plays a significant role - if both parents are overweight or obese, the children are genetically inclined to be overweight.
According to experts, the problem is manifold as the same unhealthy children grow up to be unhealthy adults. This is thought to lower life expectancy of the present generation.
Being lean is certainly not mean
A growing number of children are suffering Juvenile Diabetes; one of the leading causes of this condition is obesity. Obese children also feel fatigued and lethargic and hence are not able to lead a normal life like their healthy peers. Most of them grow up to be unhealthy and suffer chronic diseases as a result of excessive weight.
Psychologically too, the obese kids suffer low self-esteem because they carry a negative self image. Many of them are not included in the peer group, or are jeered at because of their size. Some are so embarrassed that they suffer depression; while some of them even put an end to their lives. Social isolation is a common complaint of obese children.
Size Does Matter - Effects of Obesity
Obesity has been linked to 53 diseases. Not surprising, as overweight and obesity is known to impact blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance of the body, negatively.
An abnormally high BMI increases the risk of breast cancer, cancer of the colon, prostrate, kidney and gall bladder. Thus, obesity is the leading cause of premature death due to its association with chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and Type 2 diabetes.
Bell the Fat
A multi-pronged strategy for effective weight management and prevention of chronic diseases is crucial for those groups at risk.
The prevention strategies will include a weight loss programme followed by a weight maintenance programme. The weight loss programme will combine the benefits of rigorous physical activity and a healthy diet regimen designed to knock off the additional weight in a stipulated timeframe.
Obesity which opens the Pandora box of chronic diseases can be prevented with just a few healthy steps:
1. Eat a balanced diet rich in proteins, vegetables and fruits. Including more fiber and less fat will do the trick, experts say. Cut down on snacks, bakery products and fast foods laden with trans fat.
2. Stay active. Engage in a 30 minute physical activity with a good pace of exercise preferably 4-5 times a week.
3. Monitor weight regularly.
Notwithstanding personal efforts, it is also imperative that the policymakers chip in to regulate the entry of harmful foods. Increasing the taxes of foods saturated with sugar and trans fats while reducing the cost of vegetables and fruits is a laudable move by certain nations in encouraging healthy eating habits.
In China, the government has introduced compulsory dance classes, in a bid to get people active. Some countries have come down heavily on food advertisements promoting unhealthy products. This is being replaced with advertisements conveying the right message to people. The concerted effort of governments, local bodies and people themselves is crucial to write an obituary to this growing epidemic.
Clearly, the choice of being fit and in fine fettle or the proverbial 'fattened calf' ready for sacrifice rests on each one of us and will be a deciding factor for a ticket to good health or a snappy one-way ticket to no-man's land.