Health professionals believe that there is an epidemic of obesity in the western world, especially in the United States.
Obesity is categorized as a medical condition in which an access of body weight may have an adverse effect on health. Body mass index (BMI) has been created in the 1800’s by a Belgian doctor to help determine what over-weight is; individual’s body weight was divided by the square of his/her height. Normal BMI is considered to be 18.5 – 25 , Overweight BMI is 25-30 and obese BMI is considered all that is above 30.
Obesity increases the chances for different diseases, especially heart disease, diabetes, breathing difficulties, certain types of cancers and osteoarthritis.
The Main Cause of Obesity
The main cause of obesity in the western world is without a doubt excessive food intake and lack of physical activity, combined with a genetic predisposition for weight gain. And no wonder. The modern world has become more and more hectic. We ‘grab’ food, on the go, eat in the car. We are constantly surrounded by food commercials, in outdoor billboards and on television, urging us to try something new and luscious, tempting us in the best way science and the art of the sale came up with.
On the other hand the food itself has become more refined with the years. The sugar has become white and more processed, the wheat goes through blenching to refine it. The rice is now clean and without its cover and so on. These refined foods are digested more quickly, leaving the stomach empty with a feeling of hunger.
Couple that with modern transportation. We drive to the gym, we ‘walk’ up escalators and take elevators. We sit in air-conditioned rooms and heated trains. We are constantly looking for the closest parking space. We are more comfortable, that’s for sure, but that comes with a price. The pounds/kilograms pack on tight.
Although obesity in the old world was considered a sign of prosperity, and still is in some cultures, obesity is the leading preventable cause of death in the western world. With increasing numbers of obese children, public health officials are worried we are going towards a disaster when those children will become adults and develop the conditions associated with being obese.
Although some obese people claim they eat very little and do not lose weight due to slow metabolism, scientific evidence does not support that. On average obese people spend more calories to sustain their bodies than their thin counterparts, and the intake is increased.
There are some other causes for obesity. A 2006 review identified other possible contributors to the recent increase in obesity:
- Insufficient sleep: Our modern life-style does not allow for sufficient sleep. Tired mind and muscles ask for a boost in stimulants to keep functioning. We do it with caffeine but also with carbs.
- Endocrine disruptors: Pollutants that interfere with lipid metabolism.
- Decreased variability in ambient temperature: Living our lives in air conditioned and heated rooms, not having to fight the elements, which increases the body’s struggle to keep the temperature by spending energy, might also be a cause to the increase in obesity.
- Decreased rate of smoking: smoking is known to be an appetite suppressant. As the campaign against smoking became full blown and the numbers of smokers decreased, their food intake increased pushing them into obesity.
- Increase in medication: some modern medication’s side effects are weight gain, as seen in the case of steroids. Increased use in those medications to combat inflammations may contribute to the rise in number of obese people in the western society.
- Increase in ethnic and age groups that tend to be heavier: The tendency to pass the obesity to the next generation might be a cause as well. Eating habits in an obese home will most likely produce obese children.
- Pregnancy at a later age: researchers are looking into the numbers to find out if pregnancy at a later age, when it is harder to lose the post baby weight, contributes to the numbers of obese people in the United States.
- Epigenetic: risk factors passed on from generation to generation.
It is evident when looking in the streets of America that being overweight has become the norm. Celebrities have been involved led by the First Lady of the United State, Michele Obama. Television chefs like Jamie Oliver and many television shows are devoted to the idea of losing weight. There are competitions, huge paying prizes to the biggest looser and America is watching.
While half of the world is suffering from hunger, the other half is combating too much weight. And combating is the right word; in this day and age not becoming obese is a constant struggle.