25.2 C
City of Banjul
Sunday, October 17, 2021

Overweight and obesity

It was a problem in the affluent people in the west when they were developing and now becoming a problem in the developing countries because they are developing. Not all obese people eat more than the average person, but all obviously eat more than they need. The present obesity epidemic is mainly due to changes in lifestyle behaviour (although genetic factors may be involved in some individuals). The growing obesity problem in humans has affected children, adults and older


What causes overweight and obesity?

1.      Lack of energy balance: A lack of energy balance most often causes overweight and obesity. Energy balance means that your energy IN equals your energy OUT. Energy IN is the amount of energy or calories you get from food and drinks. Energy OUT is the amount of energy your body uses for things like breathing, digesting, and being physically active. To maintain a healthy weight, your energy IN and OUT don’t have to balance exactly every day. It’s the balance over time that helps you maintain a healthy weight. For example:

The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time = weight stays the same

More energy IN than energy OUT over time = weight gain

More energy OUT than energy IN over time = weight loss

Overweight and obesity happen over time when you take in more calories than you use.

2.      An inactive lifestyle: Many people aren’t very physically active. One reason for this is that many people spend hours in front of TVs and computers doing work, schoolwork, and leisure activities. In fact, more than 2 hours a day of regular TV viewing time has been linked to overweight and obesity. Other reasons for not being active include: relying on cars instead of walking, fewer physical demands at work or at home because of modern technology and conveniences, and lack of physical education sessions in communities and schools.  People who are inactive are more likely to gain weight because they don’t burn the calories that they take in from food and drinks. An inactive lifestyle also raises your risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, and other health problems.

3.      Environment: Our environment doesn’t support healthy lifestyle habits; in fact, it encourages obesity. Some reasons include:

Work schedules. People often say that they don’t have time to be physically active because of long work hours and time spent commuting.

Over-sized food portions. Some people are exposed to huge food portions in restaurants, fast food places, supermarkets, and even at home. Some of these meals and snacks can feed two or more people. Eating large portions means too much energy IN. Over time, this will cause weight gain if it isn’t balanced with physical activity.

Lack of access to healthy foods. Some people don’t live in neighbourhoods that have markets that sell healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, for some people, these healthy foods are too costly.

Food advertising. We are surrounded by adverts from food companies. Often children are the targets of advertising for high-calorie, high-fat snacks and sugary drinks. The goal of these adverts is to sway people to buy these high-calorie foods, and often they do.

4.      Genes and family history: Overweight and obesity tend to run in families. Your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or obese. Your genes also may affect the amount of fat you store in your body and where on your body you carry the extra fat. Because families also share food and physical activity habits, a link exists between genes and the environment. Children adopt the habits of their parents. A child who has overweight parents who eat high-calorie foods and are inactive will likely become overweight too. However, if the family adopts healthy food and physical activity habits, the child’s chance of being overweight or obese is reduced.

5.      Health conditions: Some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity, such as under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Under-active thyroid is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Lack of thyroid hormone will slow down your metabolism and cause weight gain. You’ll also feel tired and weak. Cushing’s syndrome is a condition in which the body’s adrenal glands make too much of the hormone cortisol. Cushing’s syndrome also can develop if a person takes high doses of certain medicines, such as prednisone, for long periods. People who have Cushing’s syndrome gain weight, have upper-body obesity, a rounded face, fat around the neck, and thin arms and legs. PCOS is a condition that affects about 5–10 percent of women of childbearing age. Women who have PCOS often are obese, have excess hair growth, and have reproductive problems and other health issues. These problems are caused by high levels of hormones called androgens.

6.      Medicines: Certain medicines may cause you to gain weight. These medicines include some corticosteroids, antidepressants, and seizure medicines. These medicines can slow the rate at which your body burns calories, increase your appetite, or cause your body to hold on to extra water. “The Geck Syndrome” is now enticing most of the ladies to take drugs that make them gain weight because of cosmetic reasons. Notwithstanding, these obesity drugs have so many health implications and can put their lives to so many incurable diseases.

7.      Age: As you get older, you tend to lose muscle, especially if you’re less active. Muscle loss can slow down the rate at which your body burns calories. If you don’t reduce your calorie intake as you get older, you may gain weight. Midlife weight gain in women is mainly due to aging and lifestyle, but menopause also plays a role. Many women gain weight during menopause and have more fat around the waist than they did before.

8.      Pregnancy: During pregnancy, women gain weight to support their babies’ growth and development. After giving birth, some women find it hard to lose the weight. This may lead to overweight or obesity, especially after a few pregnancies.


Signs and symptoms

Weight gain usually happens over time. Most people know when they’ve gained weight. Some of the signs of overweight and obesity include:

Clothes feeling tight and needing a larger size, trousers no more require belts, or even from looking through the mirror or a friend’s observation.

The weighing scale showing that you’ve gained weight.

Having extra fat around the waist.

A higher than normal body mass index and waist circumference.


Health risks of overweight and obesity

Being overweight or obese isn’t a cosmetic problem. These conditions greatly raise your risk for other health problems.

1.      Coronary heart disease: As your body mass index rises, so does your risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Plaque can narrow or block the coronary arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart muscle. This can cause angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack. Obesity also can lead to heart failure. This is a serious condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.

2.      High blood pressure: Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways. Your chances of having high blood pressure are greater if you’re overweight or obese.

3.      Stroke: Being overweight or obese can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot to form. If the clot is close to your brain, it can block the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain and cause a stroke. The risk of having a stroke rises as BMI increases.

4.      Type 2 Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, level is too high. Normally, the body breaks down food into glucose and then carries it to cells throughout the body.  At first, the body reacts by making more insulin. Over time, however, the body can’t make enough insulin to control its blood sugar level causing diabetes. Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.

5.      Cancer and reproductive problems: Being overweight or obese raises your risk for colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers. Obesity can cause menstrual issues and infertility in women.

6.      Osteoarthritis (implies inflammation of the bones and joints): Osteoarthritis is a common joint problem of the knees, hips, and lower back. The condition occurs if the tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints, causing pain.

7.      Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. A person who has sleep apnea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can narrow the airway, making it hard to breathe.

8.      In children and teens: Overweight and obesity also increase the health risks for children and teens. Type 2 diabetes once was rare in children, but an increasing number of children are developing the disease. Also, overweight children are more likely to become overweight or obese as adults, with the same disease risks.


The author is the health secretary of the University of The Gambia Medical Students’Association (Unigamsa)


Join The Conversation

Latest Stories


The West Africa deaf football tournament first played in Nigeria in 2010, will this year be hosted in The Gambia, from November 18th to...