Featured Article – Persistent Obesity and the Health Consequences
We are all made aware that being overweight is bad for us, but what exactly do they mean by ‘bad?’ Here we will look at what the ramifications for chronic obesity actually are. It’s the time of year where we tend to switch off from our diets and overindulge, all in the name of Christmas. A couple of days of finishing off a cheeseboard or reaching for the after-dinner chocolates won’t really do too much damage to your waistline; but what happens if you carry this habit into the new year and beyond? What happens if something beyond our control makes it near impossible for us to shift the weight?
Obesity- let’s clear this up
Obesity is arguably the most discussed topic in health at the moment and with good reason. The zeitgeist of the moment is that obesity is a disease in itself and so with disease comes symptoms and manifestations. If we consider a number of health conditions associated with obesity as symptoms, then hopefully we can gain some clarity on the vast dangers of being morbidly overweight. Before all of this however, perhaps we should discuss what obesity is. Traditionally we are told that obesity can be identified as having a Body Mass Index score (BMI) of 30-39. The is worked out by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters and then dividing that figure by the height again.
This clearly has inherent issues- many people are misclassified or labelled as obese as a result of gross musculature (Burkhauser, 2008). We should consider the fact that many athletes will be heavy, relative to their body height. Rugby players, American footballers and body builders spring to mind and many are likely to be classified as obese according to BMI alone. A sporting individual that belongs to a professional body will undergo extreme fitness trials, rigorous medical tests and have access to top nutritionists and thus we can be pretty certain that their health (for the most part) is not in jeopardy due to their weight. It is import not that we do not discount the use of BMI entirely because one should be able to tell the difference between a rugby forward’s physique and a person carrying excess fat. Surely then, there must be other criteria to be met before we can decide that some bodies mass is dangerous. Included in this is the hip to weight ratio and overall fat mass and as such we are interested in the impact of excess abdominal adipose tissue.
Dangers of Chronic Obesity
Carrying excessive body fat over a prolonged period promotes a variety of risks, from snoring to cancer with everything such as joint pain and heart problems in between- not to mention low confidence and depression (NHS, 2019). Mental health issues are known to impact on your personal life whereas the physical dangers can actually kill you AND if you don’t succumb to a heart attack, then the quality of your life when living in constant pain from osteoarthritis must surely make one question how things got to be this bad. This is of course, not forgetting the disease on every physician’s lips, type 2 diabetes.
The Mechanisms of obesity and disease
We don’t just store fat on our body as the wobbly parts and it isn’t just an inert, inactive substance. Fat cells are mobile, they send messages and they can be dangerous. The fat you might feel on your waistline is stored as triacyglycerides (TAG) and when we need to use the fat for energy, it is then converted in free fatty acids (FFA) and circulates the body. These FFA however can inhibit insulin sensitivity. We need insulin to work correctly because when we consume sugary foods, the sugar breaks down into glucose and circulates in our blood- excess FFA means excess blood glucose and this of course takes us into type- 2 diabetes territory. As touched on, fat cells are active cells. They release a product called adipokines; a type of protein that instructs cells to carry out certain behaviours. These can be very useful and help to regulate certain hormones and have been found to have health benefits however there are a number of these messenger cells that are linked to cancer promotion. They promote the necessary inflammation, mutation and proliferation required for malignant cells to not only grow, but thrive and spread (Christodoulatos, 2019). We are told that cancer will impact 1 in 2 of us and with one of the known associations being obese (NHS 2019), is there not more that we can do ourselves to tackle the problem?
It seems plain really then, that being obese isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Having too much fat is a dangerous lifestyle choice and should be treated as importantly as the diseases that it causes. The financial burden on the country from obesity and related illnesses is greater than the total spends on the police, fire service and judicial system and in the current climate, the strain may become too great. Control in the war on fat needs to be regained. Healthier lifestyle choices such as an increase in physical activity, decreasing high energy food and drinks intake and keeping a sustained effort to return to or maintain a healthy weight and composition are required to reduce disease and increase life expectancy. Perhaps think twice before you eat that second mince pie, your libido will thank you for it.
read more about obesity and cancer here https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13679-019-00364-y
Christodoulatos, G., Spyrou, N., Kadillari, J., Psallida, S., Dalamaga, M. (2019) ‘The Role of Adipokines in Breast Cancer: Current Evidence and Perspectives’, Current Obesity Reports, 8, (4), pp 413-433
NHS. Cancer (online) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cancer/accessed 16/12/2019
NHS. Obesity(online) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/accessed 16/12/2019