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)
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.
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:
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?