Research into obesity has confirmed what most health-care professionals had suspected – that the growing rate of obesity is leading to ever increasing health problems in society.
Researchers from Montefiore Medical Center in New York and the University of Carolina followed a large group of teenagers.
The study found that people who are obese by time they become a teenager (Body Mass Index BMI over 30) are far more likely to be morbidly obese as adults. Morbidly obese is when BMI rises above 40.
Why Is This Significant?
This is significant for two main reasons. Firstly, once BMI rises above 40 a person becomes far more likely to develop serious illnesses which can drastically shorten lifespan.
Conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke are all far more common in morbidly obese patients. Also the quality of life diminishes for the morbidly obese as conditions such as asthma and arthritis increase as weight increases. These can disable some overweight patients.
Secondly, people are become morbidly obese are far less likely to overcome their weight problems. Often people that are just obese are still active enough to start a weight loss plan to help themselves lose weight.
This means that with a little encouragement and advice an obese person can quickly start to work their way back to being a health weight again. However, for the morbidly obese, performing any form of exercise becomes very difficult, and they also find it much harder to follow a diet plan.
What Causes Obesity?
To understand how we can start to reverse obesity we need to know what causes it. The cause of obesity is really very simply – people are eating too much food. As a society we have found ourselves in a situation where energy dense food has become commonplace and replaced many healthy foods that people used to take for granted.
Some people blame inactivity for causes obesity, but the fact is that nobody has ever gained weight as a result of not exercising. Weight gain is only caused by overeating.
Society has changed, we live in a faster paced society with more working parents which often means less time preparing healthy meals. Studies by the Open University have shown that the children of full time working mothers are more likely to obese than the children of non-working mothers, regardless of the social status.
When mothers work full time they tend to feed their children junk food due to lack of time to cook properly and can also afford more treats.
There is the saying that people work “to put food on the table”. It seems that when both parents are working they are both putting food on the table.
Obesity is a complex problem though. The root cause lies in social status and rising incomes of the lower social classes. Also most problems start out as a psychological problem – stress, anxiety, lack of self esteem and other mental health issues all led to a greater tendency to gain weight through overeating.
The Growing Costs of Obesity
Western governments are finding now that the obesity crisis is starting to place a lot of pressure on health-care systems.
Obesity related illnesses are now the most costly illnesses to treat. Although diseases such as cancer are considered to be the most expensive medical conditions to treat, obesity related disease are actually far more costly.
The most expensive conditions to treat are stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. All of these are greatly increased by obese patients.
The main cost is in expensive pharmaceuticals that are required to treat patients, although for stroke the main cost are in physiotherapy and care, both hospitalised treatments and home care.
As populations continue to age and get fatter the future is starting to look bleak. Already an aging population combined with growing unemployment as putting untold strain on government purses.
The obesity problem on top of this could well lead to economic disaster in some countries. This may sound a little far fetched right now, but many analysts are very worried.
What Can Be Done To Tackle Obesity?
As a society we need to take radical action if we are ever to reverse the current condition. Currently it is estimated that buy the year 2050 over 60% of all males will be morbidly obese. The economic and social cost will be huge.
Many initiatives have been run in recent years to attempt to in get people more active again, however these hardly ever result in any real change. People do not lose weight by increasing their activity levels alone.
The only way this trend can be reversed is by changing our relationship with food. Over the last 50 years we have grown increasingly dependent on energy rich foods and abandoned many healthy foods. The driving force are the marketing campaigns of the marge food manufacturers. In short, we need to eat less and we need to go back to food basics.
Radical Government Intervention
The only way we can get a grip of the current situation is through radical government intervention to change the way junk food is marketed and distributed. This will undoubtedly have a serious impact on the economic health of the food industry, but something has to be done to prevent obesity causing greater economic disaster.