Obesity is one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century. Obesity is defined simply as too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. Obesity is increased to a point where it is associated with certain health conditions or increased mortality. Obesity is a serious problem that affects millions of people. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might tip the balance include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods and not being physically active. Obesity, especially central obesity (male-type or waist-predominant obesity), is an important risk factor for the “metabolic syndrome” (“syndrome X”), the clustering of a number of diseases and risk factors that heavily predispose for cardiovascular disease. These are diabetes mellitus type 2, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (combined hyperlipidemia). An inflammatory state is present, which together with the above has been implicated in the high prevalence of atherosclerosis (fatty lumps in the arterial wall), and a prothrombotic state may further worsen cardiovascular risk. Being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers.
Obesity and its related diseases are more prevalent among groups with low socioeconomic status. Obesity results from an excess of energy (caloric) intake over expenditure. Obesity can have a number of causes, including thyroid problems and lack of exercise. Obesity and overweight are chronic conditions. Overall there are a variety of factors that play a role in obesity. Obesity can run in families, but just how much is due to genes is hard to determine. Many others factors have contributed to the increasing rates of overweight and obesity. Changes in society, work and leisure have affected activity and eating patterns, leading to a rise in overweight and obesity. Men have a higher resting metabolic rate (meaning they burn more energy at rest) than women, so men require more calories to maintain their body weight. Many families eat the same foods, have the same habits (like snacking in front of the TV), and tend to think alike when it comes to weight issues (like urging children to eat a lot at dinner so they can grow “big and strong”). All of these situations can contribute to weight gain, so it can be difficult to figure out if a person is born with a tendency to be obese or overweight or learns eating and exercise habits that lead to weight gain. The average American is inundated with fast food, processed food, and enriched food choices on a daily basis. Advertisements for these food products boast their nutrition values and ease of preparation can make our lives easier. We lead busy lives, eat fast, and choose television or computer over exercise.
Treatment of obesity depends primarily on how overweight a person is and his or her overall health. Certain medications can also be a cause of obesity. Phen-fen” and Redux prescription drugs have been removed from the market in the United States and many other countries. Steroid medications are common culprits increasing the amount of fluid the body holds in the body. Some migraine medications are also known to cause weight gain. Antidepressants and other mood altering medications, sometimes used for the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression can also cause increased weight gain. Treatment for obesity is an energy-limited diet and increased exercise. Patients with morbid obesity, especially those with serious co-morbid conditions, may qualify for bariatric surgical treatments such as Lap Band or Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Gastric reduction surgery is an important treatment option for obese patients with severe health problems. Initially, it leads to very significant weight loss in the 2 year period following their gastric bypass or banding operation, but it deals with symptoms (our excess weight) not causes (why we overeat). As a result, about 2-5 years after their operation, up to 40 percent of bariatric patients find it too arduous to follow the recommended dietary guidelines and end up regaining weight. Ephedra is essentially an herbal phen-fen. Ephedra is often combined with caffeine and aspirin (“the Stack”), which increases the thermogenic (fat-burning) effect of ephedra. Eating less over the long term means learning to think about your eating habits and patterns.