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Obesity may be defined as a condition characterized by excessive or abnormal accumulation of fats in body tissues. Before an individual is categorized as an obese, he or she must first become overweight; a condition characterized by abnormally high weight. Thus, the two terms, overweight and obesity, are closely related. They collectively refer to a body weight that is greater than what is considered to be normal and healthy for a given height. One of the reliable measures of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI) which is calculated from height and weight. BMI is a simple index that is usually used to classify overweight and obesity individuals. It is obtained when an individual’s weight in kilograms is divided by the square of his height in meters. The World health Organization (WHO) states that a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is taken to be an overweight, while a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is classified as obesity. Thus, an individual first becomes an overweight and when this weight is not checked, the condition slowly transforms to obesity (Tchoubi et al., 2015). The BMI measure applies to all sexes and ages. It should be considered a rough guide that can enable one to know when they are at risk of obesity. This paper focuses on obesity as the main cause of health problems in the modern world.
Obesity is regarded as one of the leading causes of death across the world. Many studies have revealed that prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher in developed countries than in developing ones. One reason that explains this phenomenon is that these conditions are caused by poor eating habits whereby individuals take in more of protein and fatty foods (Doku & Neupane, 2015). In most developed countries, many families can afford all kinds of food, and thus, they tend to overeat protein and fatty foods than other kinds of food that are just as nutritious. Most families in the developing world cannot afford different kinds of food, especially protein and fatty foods such as meat, fish, and pork, because such food are a bit costly (Doku & Neupane, 2015). Thus, this works as an advantage to such families because they do not over-consume foods that cause overweight. However, recent studies have shown that even in developing nations, the problem of overweight and obesity is increasing rapidly (Tchoubi et al., 2015). This is because some developing nations are now in a position to offer their population enough food and once families have access to every kind of food, they likely start to prcatice poor eating habits.
Research literature has widely looked into and documented the problem of obesity in children in the U.S. Lack of physical exercise, nutritional factors, and genetic predisposition have been established to be among the major contributing factors to the problem (WHO, 2012). WHO (2012) goes on to stipulate that the number of children suffering from obesity across the world surpasses 170 million. The Organization, in its report, attributes this alarmingly high prevalence to such poor life choices as inadequate or lack of physical exercise and poor eating habits. What further makes the condition a serious public health challenge are its related diseases and conditions which can cause long-term morbidity and early mortality.
Human bodies are made up of tissues and organs that work interdependently. For these body tissues to work efficiently and comfortably, their nourishment ought to be adequate and sufficient (De Vogli, Kouvonen & Gimeno, 2014). The human body is composed of the food compounds and elements that are ingested, digested and absorbed into the blood stream. For all these processes to occur with minimal interruptions, bloody tissues and organs have to be healthy. The health of body organs depends on adequate nourishment of the body cells with the right quantity of nutrients at the right time (Tchoubi et al., 2015). This implies that individuals need to eat a balanced diet food that has required body nutrients in the right proportions. However, when certain major nutrients for instance when we consume food with more protein and fats, it lead to abnormal accumulation of fats and increase in the body tissues resulting to overweight then obesity.
Statistics from the WHO shows that obesity has doubled all over the world since 1980. In the year 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults who were 18 years and above were overweight and out of this number, 600 million were obese (WHO, 2014). In other words, this implies that 39% of adults who were over 18 years in 2014 were overweight, and 13% of the world’s adult population was obese. More statistics reveal that 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013 (WHO, 2014). As mentioned earlier, overweight and obesity are not only prevalent in the developed countries, but it is now on the high rise in the middle and lower income nations as well. In fact, some research points out that the rate of increase of childhood overweight and obesity in these countries is more than 30% higher than that in the developed world (WHO, 2014). As such, this condition is rapidly becoming a threat to human health in the developing world than even in developed countries. These statistics clearly show that overweight and obesity is a real world health problem that needs to be addressed since it is one of the major causes of death.
The major cause of overweight and obesity is the energy imbalance between calories consumed and those expended. This means an increased intake of high-calorie foods leads to overweight (Van der Horst, Brunner & Siegrist, 2011). The implication is that most people become obese because of their poor eating habits. In the modern days, there are so many eateries that offer fast foods, snacks, and carbonated drinks (De Vogli, Kouvonen & Gimeno, 2014). Most people especially the youth in schools prefer these junk foods without knowing that they are dangerous food substances that only add weight to their bodies. This is the reason the rates of overweight and obesity among the youth is higher than among the adult population.
A second cause of obesity in the modern world is sedentary behaviors among populations, especially the youth and children. Most youth and children no longer play nor indulge in strenuous activities since their parents can afford a good life for them (Miller, Benelam, Stanner & Buttriss, 2013). They spend most of their time on inactive activities such as watching television and reading novels (Van der Horst, Brunner & Siegrist, 2011). These inactive activities mean that they are mostly sedentary, a factor that makes them lose fewer calories compared to what they take in. As discussed earlier, once ingested calories are more than expended ones, the result is overweight which if not checked progresses to obesity (Miller et al., 2013). Physical exercise is very much important because it helps an individual lose excess body fats and lipids and hence avoid becoming overweight. Unfortunately, young people generally fear strenuous activities due to their laziness and this negatively impacts their body weight.
Overweight and obesity may also be caused by genetic factors. Some families have overweight genes. These genes are inherited by offspring. There are high chances that when parents are overweight, their children too can be overweight due to the genetic makeup of the family (Miller et al., 2013). However, researchers point out that individuals from such families can take precautionary measures by practicing healthy eating habits and maintaining physical exercise (Van der Horst, Brunner & Siegrist, 2011). This means that obesity can easily be controlled by observing lifestyle habits such as practicing better eating habits, eating balanced diet, and avoiding sedentary behaviors by engaging in physical activities that would help in cutting down some extra calories in the body.
As already seen, obesity is a major public health problem globally due to its high prevalence and consequential mortality rates. The condition is known to be associated with various health issues. Researchers assert that obesity itself does not kill but offers a chance for opportunistic diseases to attack the body (Tchoubi et al., 2015). One of the health problems that come as a result of overweight and obesity are cardiovascular problems. People suffering from obesity are prone to cardiovascular problems and in most cases often succumb to the disease (De Vogli, Kouvonen & Gimeno, 2014). The fact that obesity is characterized by the accumulation of body fats means that these fats can accumulate and block the heart blood vessels causing insufficient blood supply to the heart muscles, thereby leading to heart failure and eventually death.
Secondly, obesity leads to psychological complications for its victims. It is a known fact that overweight individuals generally do not feel happy about their body weight. Most of them feel low and inferior during their social interactions (Tchoubi et al., 2015). This may result in psychological problems as it causes stress, disorientation, and withdrawal. When obese individuals reach such points, they can easily commit suicide or become antisocial because they do not feel as healthy people (Miller et al., 2013). Children who are obese tend to be antisocial and withdrawn. This condition affects their interactions with other children and their classroom learning.
Thirdly, obesity and overweight lead to poor metabolic reactions in the body. In the human body, there are so many functions that go on concurrently, including digestion, respiration, homeostasis, excretion, thermoregulation, and blood circulation (De Vogli, Kouvonen & Gimeno, 2014). When an individual is overweight, most of these functions are interrupted hence causing poor body metabolic functions that later on affect their health. Obesity also causes hypertension and breathing problems due to blockage of some respiratory channels. The stress that results from psychological problems leads to high blood pressure that is quite dangerous to the life of the victims.
From the discussion, it is evident that obesity is mostly caused by poor lifestyle behaviors. Therefore, the methods of prevention should focus on lifestyles behaviors as well. The first preventive mechanism against overweight and obesity is to limit the intake of fatty and high-carbohydrate foods that add too much calories into the body. A second way of addressing the condition is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. These foods improve digestion and metabolic reactions in the body. Third, obesity can be prevented by engaging in regular physical exercise that help in losing excess calories.
De Vogli, R., Kouvonen, A., & Gimeno, D. (2014). The influence of market deregulation on fast food consumption and body mass index: A cross-national time series analysis. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92(2), 9-107.
Doku, D. T., & Neupane, S. (2016). Double burden of malnutrition: Increasing overweight and obesity and stall underweight trends among Ghanaian women. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 670-678.
Miller, R. R., Benelam, B. B., Stanner, S. A., & Buttriss, J. L. (2013). Is snacking good or bad for health? An overview. Nutrition Bulletin, 38(3), 302-322.
Tchoubi, S., et al. (2015). Prevalence and risk factors of overweight and obesity among children aged 6-59 months in Cameroon: A Multistage, Stratified Cluster Sampling Nationwide Survey. Plos ONE 10(12), 1-16.
Van der Horst, K. K., Brunner, T. A., & Siegrist, M. M. (2011). Fast food and takeaway food consumption are associated with different lifestyle characteristics. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, 24(6), 596-602.
WHO. (2012). Childhood obesity prevention [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/WHO_new_childhoodobesity_PREVENTION_27nov_HR_PRINT_OK.pdf
WHO. (2014). Obesity and overweight. World Health Organization.