Confronting the Obesity Epidemic: Understanding the Causes, Consequences, and Solutions

Obesity Epidemic

What is obesity?

Obesity is a complex, chronic disease with several causes that lead to excessive body fat and sometimes, poor health. Body fat itself is not a disease, of course. But when your body has too much extra fat, it can change the way it functions. These changes are progressive, can worsen over time, and they can lead to adverse health effects.

The good news is that you can improve your health risks by losing some of your excess body fat. Even small changes in weight can have a big impact on your health. Not every weight loss method works for everyone. Most people have tried to lose weight more than once. And keeping the weight off is just as important as losing it in the first place.


Is obesity defined by your weight?

Healthcare providers commonly use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to define obesity in the general population. The BMI measures average body weight against average body height. As a generalisation, healthcare providers associate a BMI of 30 or higher with obesity.

Examples of limitations include bodybuilders and athletes, who have more muscle and may have higher BMI scores even though their fat levels are low. It’s also possible to have obesity at a “normal” weight. If your body weight is average but your body fat percentage is high, you may have the same health risks as somebody with a higher BMI.

Healthcare providers have also observed ethnic differences in how much extra weight different people can carry before it affects their health. For example, people of Asian descent are more likely to have health risks at a lower BMI, and Black people are more likely to have health risks at a higher BMI.


What are the three types of obesity?

Healthcare providers classify obesity into class types based on how severe it is. They use BMI to do it. If your BMI is between 25.0 and 29.9 kg/m², they put you in the overweight category. There are three general classes of obesity that healthcare providers use to evaluate what treatments may work best for each person. They include:


Class I obesity: BMI 30 to <35 kg/m².

Class II obesity: BMI 35 to <40 kg/m².

Class III obesity: BMI 40+ kg/m².


Symptoms and Causes

How does obesity affect my body?

Cardiovascular System: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart failure. The excess fat tissue can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can restrict blood flow and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Respiratory System: Obesity can impair lung function and lead to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep. It can also exacerbate asthma and increase the risk of developing respiratory infections.

Metabolic and Endocrine Systems: Obesity is closely linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including insulin resistance, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and hypertension. It significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, a condition where the body becomes resistant to insulin or fails to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively.

Musculoskeletal System: Excess weight puts additional strain on the bones and joints, leading to conditions such as osteoarthritis, particularly in weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Obesity can also contribute to back pain and musculoskeletal injuries.


How is childhood obesity assessed?


Childhood obesity often stems from a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors. These may include unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, genetic predisposition, family history of obesity, socioeconomic status, and environmental factors such as access to nutritious food and opportunities for physical activity.

Health Implications:

Childhood obesity can have immediate health consequences such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, joint problems, and psychological issues like low self-esteem and depression. It can also increase the risk of obesity-related conditions in adulthood.


Addressing childhood obesity often involves a multidisciplinary approach that includes dietary changes, increased physical activity, behavioural therapy, family involvement, and community-based interventions such as school wellness programs.

Psychological Impact:

Childhood obesity can lead to psychological and social challenges such as bullying, low self-esteem, body image issues, and social isolation. Addressing these issues early is crucial for preventing long-term consequences.

How is Adult obesity assessed?


Adult obesity can also be influenced by genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors, but the dynamics may differ. Factors such as changes in metabolism, lifestyle habits established during childhood, stress, hormonal changes, and ageing can contribute to adult obesity.

Health Implications:

Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers (e.g., breast, colon), osteoarthritis, and mental health disorders. Long-term obesity can significantly reduce life expectancy and quality of life.


Treating adult obesity may require more intensive interventions, including dietary modifications, regular physical activity, behaviour therapy, medications (in some cases), and in severe cases, bariatric surgery. Lifestyle changes and sustained support are essential for long-term weight management in adults.

Psychological Impact:

Adult obesity can also have significant psychological effects, including depression, anxiety, social stigma, and reduced quality of life. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or mental health counsellors can be beneficial.


What causes obesity?

Fast and convenient foods. In communities and families where highly-processed fast and convenience foods are dietary staples, it’s easy to consume a lot of calories. These foods are high in sugar and fat and low in fibre and other nutrients, which can leave you hungrier. Their ingredients promote addictive eating patterns. In some communities, these may be the only types of foods readily available, due to both cost and access.

Sugar is in everything. The food industry is not designed to maintain our health. It’s designed to sell products that we will become addicted to and want to buy more of. High on that list of products are sweets and sugary drinks, which have no nutritional value and a lot of added calories. But even standard foods have high levels of added sugar to make them more appealing and addictive

Hormones. Hormones regulate our hunger and satiety signals. Many things can disrupt these regulatory processes, including common things like stress and lack of sleep and less common things like genetic variations.

Factors that may decrease how many calories we spend include:

Screen culture. As work, shopping and social life continue to move online, we increasingly spend more time in front of our phones and computers. Streaming media and binge-watching make long hours of sedentary entertainment more possible.

Workforce changes. With industry changes trending toward automation and computers, more people now work at desks than on their feet. They also work longer hours.

Fatigue. Sedentary lifestyles have a snowball effect. Studies show that the longer you sit still, the wearier and less motivated you become. Sitting makes your body stiff and contributes to aches and pains that discourage movement. It also causes general stress, which adds to fatigue.


Management and Treatment

How is obesity treated?

Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to managing obesity, focusing on restoring balance to the body’s energies (doshas), improving digestion, detoxification, and promoting overall well-being. Treatment in Ayurveda involves a combination of dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, detoxification therapies, and physical activities. It contains an ayurvedic formula that helps improve stamina and energy levels and provides relief from weakness and stress. It has antioxidant properties that help quick recovery from ailments and revitalises the body.

  • It improves memory, and it helps to aid different types of diseases like Parkinson’s disease
  • It has antioxidant properties which help in quick recovery from ailments and revitalise the body
  • Used for the holistic aid of body and mind


Dietary Modifications:

Ayurveda emphasises consuming fresh, whole foods that are easily digestible and avoiding processed, heavy, and oily foods.

Dietary recommendations are based on an individual’s constitution (Prakriti) and imbalances (Vikriti). Foods that aggravate the Kapha dosha, such as heavy and sweet foods, are typically reduced.


Herbal Remedies:

Ayurvedic herbs and formulations are used to support weight loss, improve metabolism, and balance the doshas.

Commonly used herbs include Triphala, Guggul, Garcinia cambogia, Shilajit, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, and others.


Detoxification Therapies (Panchakarma):

Panchakarma is a set of detoxification therapies in Ayurveda aimed at removing toxins (ama) from the body.

Therapies such as massage, herbal steam therapy (Swedana), therapeutic vomiting (Vamana), purgation (Virechana), enemas (Basti), and nasal administration of herbal oils (Nasya) may be recommended.


Physical Activities:

Ayurveda recommends regular physical activity to support weight management and overall health.

Yoga asanas (postures), breathing exercises (Pranayama), and meditation can also help in reducing stress, improving metabolism, and promoting weight loss.


Lifestyle Modifications:

Establishing a regular daily routine (Dinacharya) and getting adequate sleep are important aspects of Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations.

Managing stress through relaxation techniques, meditation, and adequate rest is crucial for maintaining overall well-being.


Consultation with Ayurvedic Practitioners:

It’s essential to consult with qualified Ayurvedic practitioners or doctors who can assess your individual constitution, determine the underlying imbalances, and prescribe personalised treatment plans tailored to your specific needs and health goals.

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