At Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center we know that obesity is a complicated disease that is affecting more and more people everyday. It isn’t simply a body image concern, it is a medical condition that can lead to serious illnesses if not treated. The fact is, some people are genetically predisposed to this condition but for others it’s through years and years of poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle that can cause this excessive weight gain.
Obesity isn’t just about energy balance, i.e., calories in/calories out, that’s simplistic, and if the equation were that easy to solve we wouldn’t have the prevalence of obesity that we have today. Not only is the energy balance theory wrong, but the focus on that simplistic equation and blaming the patient have contributed to the obesity epidemic. Stigma, blame, and shame add to the problem, and are obstacles to treatment. Indeed, over 36% of adults in the United States have obesity, and the world is not far behind.
Causes and Symptoms of Obesity?
Obesity can be considered to be a disease that is highly linked to food intake and exercise, although it also can be caused by certain medical conditions. Here are some top causes of obesity:
Eating high energy density foods such as breads, pastas, pastries and fast food items can lead to obesity if eaten frequently and over a long period. Not eating healthy foods such as fiber-rich fruits, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables can not only create havoc in the digestive system but can also lead to weight gain.
2. Medical conditions
Certain health conditions can lead to weight gain. These conditions include: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing syndrome, hypothyroidism and osteoarthritis.
3. Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is overeating in response to negative emotions such as stress, boredom, anger or frustration. Around 30% of overweight people report that they have issues with binge eating.
Around 400 genes have been said to contribute to overweight or obesity. These genes can influence factors such as appetite, metabolism, food cravings, satiety, emotional eating and body fat distribution in the body. Genetic influence can vary from person to person and can range from as low as a 25% influence to as high as a 80% influence.
5. Frequency of Eating
How often you eat can actually play a role in weight gain. Overweight people tend to eat less often than people with normal weight. Studies show that those who eat smaller meals four or five times a day have lower cholesterol levels and more stable blood sugar levels than people who eat only two to three meals per day.
6. Sleep Habits
Lack of sleep can cause hormonal changes in the body and can affect hunger and appetite. Sleep deprivation over a long period can have serious effects on your metabolism and set you up for weight gain. How do you know if you are obese? Here are some top symptoms to look out for:
- Snoring or sleep apnea
- Unable to do physical activity
- Excessive sweating
- Exhaustion or tiredness on a day to day basis
- Back and joint pain
- Hormonal imbalance (irregular periods, mood swings,etc)
- Skin and hair issues
- Lack of confidence and low self-esteem
- Feeling alone/isolated
Risks Associated With Obesity
Unfortunately, obesity can pose many health risks for the individual. Some of these risks include:
1. Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin is required to lower blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your cells are unable to respond to insulin. For those with type 2 diabetes, too much glucose and sugar build up in the bloodstream. This can cause health complications and can even reduce the body’s ability to produce insulin.
2. Heart Disease
Heart disease is an umbrella term that refers to many different types of heart conditions. Some of other conditions include Arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat), Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Cardiomyopathy (heart muscles harden or grown weak), Congenital heart defects (irregularities of the heart from birth), Coronary artery disease (caused by build-up of plaque of heart’s arteries), Heart infection (infection caused by bacteria or parasites).
3. High Blood Pressure
Also known as hypertension. High blood pressure occurs when blood pressure rises too high. Extra weight can raise the heart rate and reduce the body’s ability to transport blood through the vessels and higher pressure on the artery walls increases the blood pressure. It can be a precursor to heart attack or stroke.
4. Certain Cancers
Obesity can put someone at risk for certain types of cancers. These types include Meningioma (cancer in the tissue covering brain and spinal cord), Thyroid, Liver, Gallbladder, Upper Stomach, Pancreas, Ovary, and Kidney. Breast cancer, colon cancer and endometrial cancer are especially affiliated with obesity and should be monitored if the individual is considered obese.
5. Fatty Liver Disease
Also known as hepatic steatosis. Fatty liver disease occurs when fat is built up in the liver over time. Too much fat in the liver can cause inflammation which can lead to scarring (liver fibrosis), which can then lead to liver failure.
6. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition when breathing pauses repeatedly through the night while sleeping. Those with sleep apnea may feel tired throughout the day and wonder why. When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause health complications such as diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses.
Improvements to obesity health risks with 10% weight loss
In a recent study of people living with overweight or obesity, people in the weight loss group had a median weight loss of 13% and experienced improvements to their obesity health risks. For example, there was a reduction of:
- type 2 diabetes (41%)
- sleep apnoea (40%)
- hypertension 22%
- dyslipidemia (19%)
- asthma (18%)
These are some of the benefits you can expect when you lose 10% or more of your body weight.