Is there really an obesity crisis?


 

We hear a lot about the obesity crisis these days, but what are the facts behind the headlines?

Firstly, what is obesity?

Obesity is based around the Body Mass Index, a measure of your height compared to your weight. The following are the defined weight categories:

BMI 20-25 normal weight
BMI 25-30 overweight
BMI 30-35 obese

The BMI does not account for how much of the body is fat and how much is muscle, which can cause anomalies, mainly with athletes who have a lot of muscle.

What proportion of people are obese?

A recent report – have a look at this blog post from DK Fit Solutions – states that 36% of Americans are obese, and 11% are more than 100 lbs over a healthy weight.

An NHS report on the UK (that’s the UK National Health Service) from February this year states that 26% of UK adults are obese.

It also states that 42% of men and 32% of women are in the overweight category.

So nearly 2/3 of the UK population has a BMI in excess of 25.

The report also comments on waist circumference and says that 46% of women and 34% of men have a waist larger than the recommended maximum.

The above is all fairly shocking at face value. However there were two more statistics that sounded more hopeful.

Based on the above, per the report 22% of women and 14% of men have an increased risk of future health problems. You will notice then that this cannot include every overweight and obese person.

Also the average daily calorie intake of the population is 2300. Given that on average men should intake 2500, women 2000 and children 1800, this doesn’t sound TOO terrible.

So yes, we have a fair proportion of obese people in the country. Is this a crisis?

What are the health risks associated with obesity?

It can be shown that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to have the following metabolic indicators:

High blood pressure
High blood lipids (leading to blockage of arteries with fat)
High cholesterol
Insulin resistance

These indicators are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, and some cancers.

The link between obesity and these other risk factors seems to be definite correlation, but not definite causation.

Regular exercise is a factor that reduces the risk of future health problems. According to the NHS report overall 39% of men and 29% of women met the governments guidelines for physical activity.This percentage was similar when split between each weight group: normal, overweight and obese. It was skewed slightly towards those with a healthy weight, but it is clear that around one third of the population do exercise, regardless of weight, and thus reduce their risk of future health problems.

We also know that it is possible to be a normal weight and not eat healthily or exercise. Again, a person can have a low BMI but a high body fat percentage.

However, the more obese a person is, the more their current mobility is impaired, and they may experience current minor health problems which inhibit the ease of carrying out daily activity.

To conclude:

The evidence suggests we  have a health crisis – not an obesity crisis.

Obesity is an indicator that a person may be at increased risk of future health problems.

Obesity may be a problem in a person’s everyday life if ease of daily tasks and mobility are impaired.

Obesity combined with some of the other metabolic indicators is a sign of poor health. If you are obese, a visit to the doctors for some tests should ascertain if you also have high blood pressure etc.

To address the problem the focus should be on a healthy lifestyle, not on a weight loss diet.

A person should not assume that because they are technically a healthy weight this means that they are healthy overall. They may also need to address their health.

All people, not just the obese and overweight, should look at improving the following lifestyle choices on a permanent basis:

      Regular exercise
      Healthy diet choices

It is probable that weight loss would then naturally occur, but even if it didn’t, the person may well have moved out of the zone of increased risk for diseases, and improved their daily quality of life and health.

Do you agree?

 

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  1. Diane, fit to the finish Says:

    Yes to your last paragraphs because if we focus on a healthy lifestyle, then the numbers of obese people will begin to drop. Then the health crisis lessens (hopefully) because fewer people will end up with very serious diseases that can not only shorten their lives but adds billions of dollars to health care costs.

    Great post.

  2. All That I’m Eating Says:

    It’s interesting to know all the stats. I suppose it is more a ‘health’ crisis than an obesity one.

  3. Marc Says:

    Do I agree? Yes. I know a very sedenary man (younger than I) that was diagnosed with conjective heart disease in January. He is obese. No heart attack, no clogged arteries, no high lipid count. Just a worn out heart from carrying around all that fat. Well now he daily walks 2 miles per day, six days per week. He puts in more miles walking in a week now than he previously did in a year. It’s just unfortunate that facing death was his wake up call to change the way he lived.

  4. Mum Says:

    I think we can regard obesity as a crisis in its own right. It seems to be an illness of the modern age. The reasons behind why it is happening seem more complicated than at first sight. It is the sudden increase in the numbers of people that come into the obese category that is so alarming, plus the number of children who are classed as obese. We used to have ‘fat’ children around when I was at school, but there were very few, and I doubt that any were obese. Nor do I remember seeing any obese children when I was a teacher in the 1970′s.

  5. Renee Moody Says:

    I weigh in at 285 pounds and I am 5 foot 7, but my blood pressure is 109/60, my blood glucose is 80 and my blood lipids are normal. Several years ago, I had 2 doctors give me a hard time about my weight and try to tell me I would drop dead in a year or two if I didn’t lose weight. Both of those doctors dropped dead of heart attacks while seeing patients and both were normal size and fairly young. I didn’t drop dead and I am still going 20 years later. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don’t think weight is as much an issue as they would have us believe, my Mom was rather slim ( 5’7″ and about 120 pounds) and still had diabetes and died when she was 56 as her Mom did. I often wonder how much the genetic engineering of our food supply as well as treating animals with growth hormone and antibiotics feed into the growing waist lines of people all around the world, not just here in America. Just my opinion.

  6. admin Says:

    Diane – Yes here in the UK sometimes the point is raised as to whether people who have illnesses that are self inflicted to some extent, be it through obesity or smoking say, should get the same free health care. Its quite a dangerous road to go down, but as you say if we were all healthier these resources wouldn’t be needed.

  7. admin Says:

    Marc – Often it does take some kind of wake up call for people to realise what they are doing, or not doing. Its a shame!

  8. admin Says:

    Mum – Certainly obesity is more prevalent these days, and diseases like type 2 diabetes are seen in younger and younger people – often a cause of an unhealthy lifestyle.

  9. admin Says:

    Renee – Yes if you know your habits are healthy then the indication is that you are at less risk of illness! Interesting points about genetic engineering etc – certainly many factors contribute to the difficulty people can have in controlling their weight these days – science just doesn’t know enough yet…

  10. Elli Davis Says:

    I agree with your warnings-they are very important! However, I think it is good to point precisely to what the problem is. Saying that there is not obesity crisis but health crisis may sound as though the situation is not that serious as to use the expression health crisis is rather general as well as not sounding that alarming. What is happening is really obesity crisis (alongside another crises) as figures say that the number of people classed as obese doubled over past 17 years in the UK. Prediction says that by 2050 obesity is to affect half of the UK population. That is really alarming and therefore the problem should be really called obesity crisis despite the fact that it does not speak about this sad reality in a delicate manner.

  11. admin Says:

    Elli – I agree that health crisis is a rather general phrase and may lessen the importance of the problem we face.

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