Obesity: Body Mass Index and Weight

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1. Obesity is the commonest health problem in our community
2. Obesity causes many diseases and markedly increases the risk of Dying prematurely
3. Obesity also reduces quality of life by limiting physical activity and Encouraging social isolation.
4. The costs of obesity through increased health costs and reduced Effectiveness in the community are very high.
5. The body mass index or BMI is the best simple method for measuring How obese someone is.

Obesity is shaping to be one of the greatest health challenges of the 21 st
century. No disease is more common and causes more unnecessary illness or early death than obesity. Furthermore, there is no other single problem that so reduces the quality of life or increases the demand for healthcare services.

The problem is world wide. In the USA, more than two of every three adults are overweight and about one in three is obese. That means that approximately 60 million people have the disease of obesity in the USA alone. More than one in five Australian adults, an estimated 2.6 million of a population of 20 million, are obese. For both countries, the incidence of obesity has doubled since the 1980. Alarmingly, obesity starts in childhood and already 7% of our teenagers are obese.

Around the world, all countries have a growing problem. There are now an estimated 300 million people around the world who are suffering form obesity and its consequences. In both developed and developing nations, a similar pattern is occurring. In Russia, 54% of adults are overweight. In Brazil, the figure is 36%, and in Malaysia, 27%. Even China has a developing problem. A recent survey of adults in urban Shanghai reported that 29.5% were overweight and 4.3% were obese. After millions of years evolving a genetic structure to survive the life of the hunter/ gatherer, our health and our lives are now threatened by a lifestyle characterized by ready access to copious amounts of attractive food and very little need for physical activity. Foods high in fat, carbohydrates, and, in particular, simple sugars, are booming. The US Department of Agriculture reports that the US per capita intake of sugar was 152.4 lbs in 2000. That is equal to nearly half a pound of sugar per person each day. Most will claim they are not eating that much sugar. We would all be surprised to see that sugar is now a part of so many foods that we don’t even realise we are eating sugar. It has infiltrated our diet to a frightening extent. One hundred years ago, the sugar intake per person was only 0.5 lb. Is it any wonder that we have a problem?

And we don’t even need to get out of the chair to order the food to be delivered or to change the channels on the television. Activity has become optional. The combination of increased intake of energy and reduced energy expenditure inevitably leads to progressive weight increase DEFINING AND MEASURING OBESITY

We define obesity as “a disease in which fat has accumulated to the extent that health is impaired”.
Notice three key components of the definition:

”Obesity is a disease” – It is only recently that major health authorities such as the World Health Organization and the US Federal Department of Health have acknowledge it as a disease. This change is most important as the disease of obesity can now begin to claim attention and an allocation of resources as do all other diseases.

“in which fat has accumulated” – fat is the key element of obesity. Primarily we are interested in how much fat there is in the body. We are not focused on weight per se. However, as we do not have a simple office method for directly measuring the fat content of the body, we have to use surrogate measures. We could use weight alone but this would be terribly misleading. The tall person is always likely to be heavier than the shorter person. Therefore, as a minimum, we have to take into account the height as well. Currently, our best way to do that is by using the...
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