The facts about obesity can be overwhelming. A simple definition of obesity, it is a medical condition where excess body fat has accumulated to the point that it may have a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy. Authorities consider it one of the most serious public health problems in the 21st century.
American Obesity rates are known to be the highest the world with approximately 26% of adults obese and 64% of adults considered overweight or obese. The estimates have been steadily rising, based on current trends it is projected that 41% of adults will be obese and 75% of adults will be overweight by 2015.
Obesity is most commonly caused by a lack of physical activity and excessive dietary calories, and also genetics. There are limited cases where it is due only to genetics, medical reasons or psychiatric illness.
Several diseases are associated with obesity; specially heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, many types of cancer, asthma, disability and others. A 2008 study found that children who are obese have carotid arteries that have prematurely aged by as much as thirty years, as well as abnormal cholesterol levels. Obesity during adolescence has been found to increases mortality rates during adulthood.
Treatments for Obesity
Treatments for obesity consist of dieting and physical exercise. Anti-obesity medication is sometimes used to reduce appetite or inhibit fat absorption; behavioral therapy is used in some cases. A lower calorie diet and exercise as a permanent part of one’s lifestyle is usually required in order to maintain weight loss.
Treatments for obesity include surgical options, each type present advantages and pitfalls. The term bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery refers to various surgical procedures performed to treat obesity by modifying the gastrointestinal tract to reduce nutrient intake and or absorption.
Surgery generally results in greater weight loss than conventional treatment, and leads to improvements in quality of life. It also involves the most risk and is intended for those who are severely obese and have weight related health problems.
The facts about obesity have led to various anti-obesity efforts. Public health efforts aim to understand and to correct environmental factors responsible for the increasing prevalence of obesity in our society. The solutions seek to change the factors that cause excess calorie consumption and inhibit physical activity.
The efforts include limiting direct junk food marketing to children, better food package labeling to help increase consumer awareness, decreasing access to sweetened beverages in schools, increase access to parks and to develop pedestrian routes when building urban environments, and others.
Various approaches are being evaluated to address the rising rates of obesity.