We have all heard at least one person being described as obese, sometimes in a derogatory way. However, many of us know next to nothing about the reality of obesity. Today, on World Obesity Day, Impact Nutrition Africa is here to fix that by answering your questions.
What is Obesity?
The World Health Organisation defines Obesity as the accumulation of body fat to the extent that it presents a risk to health. A quick and frequently used measure of obesity is Body Mass Index (BMI) however it is important to note that this is not an exact measure of obesity – body fat. BMI is calculated as the weight of the individual (kg) divided by the square of the individual’s height (m). A BMI of 30 or above usually indicates obesity.
Men lie, women lie, but numbers never lie. What do the numbers say about obesity?
(WHO Overweight and Obesity Factsheet, 2018)
What causes obesity?
Several players are responsible for the development of obesity ranging from genetics to environmental factors and lifestyle or behavioural factors. However, the basic mechanism is that obesity occurs when there is an imbalance between the energy/calories consumed and energy/calories expended. Physical activity contributes to energy expenditure and food intake contributes to the energy consumed hence physical inactivity and intake of energy-dense, high-fat foods all play important roles in the development of excess weight and consequently obesity.
Why should we be worried about obesity?
Obesity is a major risk factor of many non – communicable diseases such as:
Childhood obesity leads to increased risk of obesity and premature death in adulthood. Obese children also suffer breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
The risk of these diseases increases as BMI increases.
What can we do about obesity?
Individually, we can:
However, our individual efforts can be frustrated by an unsupportive environment. We should aim to have a society that makes healthy eating and physical activity accessible to all. Food industries have a role to play on this, as healthy alternatives to empty-calorie-laden foods are way more expensive.
What should we NOT do about obesity?
Read attentively: this is important.