Obesity - Everything You Need to Know About This Worrying Epidemic_logo

Obesity – Everything You Need to Know About This Worrying Epidemic

Obesity is a serious problem that not only endangers the health of adults, but also children and adolescents. The problem is, obesity is one of the triggers for high sufferers of other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, gastric disease, stroke, and death.

WHO states that obesity has become an epidemic with a total of more than 1 billion overweight adults. Obesity is a serious problem that affects all social strata, which is one of the factors causing the emergence of chronic diseases.

Based on data from the RAND Corporation, the rate of overweight in adults in Indonesia has increased in the last two decades. This statement is also supported by a survey from Indonesian Basic Health Research (RISKESDAS) in 2018 which said that one in seven teenagers in Indonesia was overweight or obese.

Causes of obesity

Obesity can be caused by consuming too many calories but not being followed by a balanced calorie burning activity, causing the accumulation of fat in the body.

The modern lifestyle has changed the diet of today’s adults. Call it a fast food chain that serves food and drinks with high calories. There is also quite a lot of market demand for snacks that are high in sugar, such as bubble drinks.

The habit of consuming food that is not nutritionally balanced is also coupled with minimal physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. In addition, adults need to do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.

Apart from the unbalanced intake of calories in and out, there are other factors that can cause obesity, including:

  • Heredity
  • Consumption of drugs
  • Pregnancy
  • Presence of certain diseases or medical conditions
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Stress

Meanwhile, a recent study by the American Society for Nutrition states that overeating is not the main cause of obesity, but further, is the effect of the reaction of carbohydrates and insulin.

Dr. David Ludwig, Endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School explains that a teenager alone in his growth period can increase his calorie intake by 1,000 kcal. This does not necessarily make the teenager obese, but is a way to accelerate his growth.

The key is in the modern diet, which tends to overconsumption of foods with a high glycemic index, such as refined carbohydrates. These foods cause hormonal responses and alter our metabolic system.

Is obesity the same as overweight?

Obesity and overweight are two terms that have different meanings. Quoting from Dr. Sardjito Central Hospital’s website, obesity is a disorder or disease characterized by the accumulation of fat in the body in excessive amounts. While overweight is a condition where a person has a body weight that is higher than the normal ideal weight, which can be caused by the accumulation of fat or non-fat tissue.

Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California explains that obesity is measured by BMI (Body Mass Index). The normal limit for BMI is 18-25, if the value is 30, it is included in the overweight category, and a value above 30 is in the obese category.

Although different meanings, obesity and overweight can both occur due to unhealthy eating habits and not paying attention to balanced nutrition. As already explained, this can be caused by changes in modern lifestyle so that people consume more foods high in calories, fat, and sugar, while their physical activity is very low.

Complications of disease from obesity

Obesity is a serious problem because this condition can trigger other diseases that endanger health.

Children and adolescents who are obese have a high enough risk of remaining obese in adulthood. Based on research from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Lampung, the dangers of obesity in children include reduced brain capacity, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, hypertension, and diabetes.

In adults, the vast majority of patients with type 2 diabetes in America are obese. People who find it difficult to get healthy food tend to be obese and are at risk for diabetes and hypertension. This may be related to the fact that cheap foods tend to be high in calories but low in nutrients, and when these foods become part of their daily diet, it can trigger symptoms of prediabetes that can progress to type 2 diabetes.

In addition to diabetes, obesity is also associated with hypertension. There is an almost linear relationship between BMI and blood pressure. Weight loss has been shown to help reduce blood pressure in most people with hypertension.

In addition to these two diseases, obesity is also associated with infertility. In men, obesity is associated with decreased sperm count. Meanwhile, due to obesity in women can cause decreased fertility to miscarriage. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a major cause of female infertility and increases the rate of pregnancy complications. Obesity can increase the risk of PCOS, if women with PCOS are also obese then the risk will be even more serious.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the main predictor of severe COVID-19 complications, apart from age, was diet-related risks such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, a recent global analysis shows that obesity increases the risk of hospitalization and increases the risk of dying from Covid by almost 50 percent.

Obesity epidemic status

In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults over the age of 18 were overweight and more than 650 million of them were obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children in the world also increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is almost twice as large in developed countries as in developing countries, namely 11.7% and 6.1%.

Obesity in children and adolescents can be a predictor of obesity in adulthood. Approximately 80% of adolescents aged 10-15 years who are obese will be found obese by the age of 25 years.

In the European Union 22.82% of the population was obese in 2016 compared to just 9.3% in 1975, which is a 161% increase in about 40 years. Malta, Hungary and Lithuania were the most affected countries with 28.9%, 26.4% and 26.3%, respectively.

Starting in 2022 Spain will take steps to ban advertisements for high-sugar foods and drinks on television, radio, online outlets and mobile applications that provide content for children under 16. This was conveyed by the Minister of Consumer Affairs of Spain, Alberto Garzon, that one in three children in Spain is obese and one of the contributing factors is advertising in the media.

It is important to realize that improving nutrition and tackling a poor diet need to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle obesity.

Obesity is no longer just a problem in big countries. The trend continues to increase in most countries, which has a direct impact on the health levels, quality of life, productivity and health care costs of their citizens.

The Acting Director of the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases from the Indonesian Ministry of Health, Elvieda Sariwati, said that one in three adults or around 68 million adults in Indonesia is obese, the statement was conveyed at the online discussion of the Scaling Up Nutrition Annual Meeting 2021 at Jakarta on Friday (12/11/2021).

According to the latest data from the Global Nutrition Report, one in three people in the world is overweight or obese. In the last two decades, the number of children categorized as overweight or obese has more than doubled on a global scale, with data showing an increase of 3.3 to 7.8 percent among boys aged 5 to 19 years, and 2 .5 to 5.6 percent among girls in the country of the same age.

Current policies aimed at fighting obesity have not been enough to reverse the trend. Successfully tackling the obesity pandemic will depend on governments, business and civil society working together to correct deficiencies in our food and health systems, with a focus on nutrition and better diets for all.

The solution to the obesity epidemic

To understand the problem of obesity, we need to understand that this problem is not just how much food we eat, but also how the food we choose can affect our metabolic system.

People who eat less without proper calorie and nutritional calculations usually won’t make it to the diet in the long run. Meanwhile, the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not a change in diet in a short period of time, but must continue to be carried out in a disciplined and regular manner and includes not only healthy eating but also regular physical activity.

Talking about handling the epidemic is not a simple matter, but involves many parties such as the government in each country, the community, and business people.

Access to fresh food ingredients and minimal processing is in fact quite difficult for the community to reach. The long and unequal distribution distance between consumers and farmers makes food prices also higher. Meanwhile, junk food, snacks with high sugar and calories are increasingly massively advertised in the media.

At the individual level, it’s a good idea to be strict in managing your diet, physical activity patterns, emotional eating patterns (eating habits) and your sleep/rest patterns. It is important to know your BMI and health condition as the first step in planning your new and healthier lifestyle. The ways you can do it are:

  • Consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Limiting excessive sleep
  • Increase physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Do it regularly 3-5 times per week then make adjustments after a few weeks
  • Limiting activities, such as watching television, playing computer and games
  • Limit consumption of sugar, salt, and excess fat
  • If you have difficulty to create meal schedules, consider subscribing to the nearest diet catering

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