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Obesity (overweight)

Obesity (overweight)

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Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little. If you consume high amount of energy, particularly fat and sugars, but do not burn off the energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored by the body as fat.

Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It’s a medical problem that increases the risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

There are many reasons why some people have difficulty losing weight. Usually, obesity results from inherited, physiological and environmental factors, combined with diet, physical activity and exercise choices.

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The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity. A healthier diet, increased physical activity and behavior changes can help you lose weight. Prescription medications and weight-loss procedures are additional options for treating obesity.

10 leading causes of weight gain and obesity

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world. It’s associated with several related conditions, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. These include high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and a poor blood lipid profile.

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People with metabolic syndrome are at a much higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, compared to those whose weight is in a normal range.

Over the past decades, much research has focused on the causes of obesity and how it could be prevented or treated.

1. Genetics

Obesity has a strong genetic component. Children of obese parents are much more likely to become obese than children of lean parents.

That doesn’t mean that obesity is completely predetermined. What you eat can have a major effect on which genes are expressed and which are not.

Non-industrialized societies rapidly become obese when they start eating a typical Western diet. Their genes didn’t change, but the environment and the signals they sent to their genes did.

2. Engineered junk foods

Heavily processed foods are often little more than refined ingredients mixed with additives.

These products are designed to be cheap, last long on the shelf and taste so incredibly good that they are hard to resist.

By making foods as tasty as possible, food manufacturers are trying to increase sales. But they also promote overeating.

Most processed foods today don’t resemble whole foods at all. These are highly engineered products, designed to get people hooked.

3. Food addiction

Many sugar-sweetened, high-fat junk foods stimulate the reward centers in your brain.

In fact, these foods are often compared to commonly abused drugs like alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and cannabis.

Junk foods can cause addiction in susceptible individuals. These people lose control over their eating behavior, similar to people struggling with alcohol addiction losing control over their drinking behavior.

Addiction is a complex issue that can be very difficult to overcome. When you become addicted to something, you lose your freedom of choice and the biochemistry in your brain starts calling the shots for you.

4. Aggressive marketing

Junk food producers are very aggressive marketers.

Their tactics can be unethical at times and they sometimes try to market very unhealthy products as healthy foods.

These companies also make misleading claims. What’s worse, they target their marketing specifically towards children.

In today’s world, children are becoming obese, diabetic and addicted to junk foods long before they’re old enough to make informed decisions about these things

5. Insulin

Insulin is a very important hormone that regulates energy storage, among other things.

One of its functions is to tell fat cells to store fat and to hold on to the fat they already carry.

The Western diet promotes insulin resistance in many overweight and obese individuals. This elevates insulin levels all over the body, causing energy to get stored in fat cells instead of being available for use.

While insulin’s role in obesity is controversial, several studies suggest that high insulin levels have a causal role in the development of obesity.

One of the best ways to lower your insulin is to cut back on simple or refined carbohydrates while increasing fiber intake.

6. Certain medications

Many pharmaceutical drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect.

For example, antidepressants have been linked to modest weight gain over time.

Other examples include diabetes medication and antipsychotics.

These drugs don’t decrease your willpower. They alter the function of your body and brain, reducing metabolic rate or increasing appetite.

7. Leptin resistance

Leptin is another hormone that plays an important role in obesity.

It is produced by fat cells and its blood levels increase with higher fat mass. For this reason, leptin levels are especially high in people with obesity.

In healthy people, high leptin levels are linked to reduced appetite. When working properly, it should tell your brain how high your fat stores are.

The problem is that leptin isn’t working as it should in many obese people, because for some reason it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.

This condition is called leptin resistance and is believed to be a leading factor in the pathogenesis of obesity.

8. Food availability

Another factor that dramatically influences people’s waistline is food availability, which has increased massively in the past few centuries.

Food, especially junk food, is everywhere now. Shops display tempting foods where they are most likely to gain your attention.

Another problem is that junk food is often cheaper than healthy, whole foods, especially in America.

Some people, especially in poorer neighborhoods, don’t even have the option of purchasing real foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables.

Convenience stores in these areas only sell sodas, candy and processed, packaged junk foods

9. Sugar

Added sugar may be the single worst aspect of the modern diet.

That’s because sugar changes the hormones and biochemistry of your body when consumed in excess. This, in turn, contributes to weight gain.

Added sugar is half glucose, half fructose. People get glucose from a variety of foods, including starches, but the majority of fructose comes from added sugar.

Excess fructose intake may cause insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels. It also doesn’t promote satiety in the same way glucose does.

For all these reasons, sugar contributes to increased energy storage and, ultimately, obesity.

10. Misinformation

People all over the world are being misinformed about health and nutrition.

There are many reasons for this, but the problem largely depends on where people get their information from.

Many websites, for example, spread inaccurate or even incorrect information about health and nutrition.

Some news outlets also oversimplify or misinterpret the results of scientific studies and the results are frequently taken out of context.

Other information may simply be outdated or based on theories that have never been fully proven.

Food companies also play a role. Some promote products, such as weight loss supplements, that do not work.

Weight loss strategies based on false information can hold back your progress. It’s important to choose your sources well.

Symptoms

Body mass index (BMI) is often used to diagnose obesity. To calculate BMI, multiply weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches and then divide again by height in inches. Or divide weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.

Many doctors also measure a person’s waist circumference to help guide treatment decisions. Weight-related health problems are more common in men with a waist circumference over 40 inches (102 centimeters) and in women with a waist measurement over 35 inches (89 centimeters).

Although there are genetic, behavioral, metabolic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through normal daily activities and exercise. Your body stores these excess calories as fat.

In the United States, most people’s diets are too high in calories — often from fast food and high-calorie beverages. People with obesity might eat more calories before feeling full, feel hungry sooner, or eat more due to stress or anxiety.

Many people who live in Western countries now have jobs that are much less physically demanding, so they don’t tend to burn as many calories at work. Even daily activities use fewer calories, courtesy of conveniences such as remote controls, escalators, online shopping and drive-through banks.

Risk factors

Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors:

Family inheritance and influences

The genes you inherit from your parents may affect the amount of body fat you store, and where that fat is distributed. Genetics may also play a role in how efficiently your body converts food into energy, how your body regulates your appetite and how your body burns calories during exercise.

Obesity tends to run in families. That’s not just because of the genes they share. Family members also tend to share similar eating and activity habits.

Treatment for obesity

o          Healthy eating plan and regular physical activity.

o          Changing your habits., Weight-management programs.

o          Weight-loss medicines., Weight-loss devices., Bariatric surgery.

o          Special diets.

For further information, email to [email protected], send messages to Dr Azadeh to WhatsApp 002207774469 from 3 to 6PM.

Dr Hassan Azadeh MD, senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.

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