Top 10 Facts About Obesity You Probably Didn’t Know

Parul Dube

October 14, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that at least 2.8 million adults die every year due to being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of diabetes cases, 23% of heart diseases and 7-41% of particular instances of cancer are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Obesity means that a person carries too much weight, specifically fat, around their body. The common reason behind the extra fat signifies that a person eats more calories than they burn. Obesity also stems from a sedentary lifestyle and the consumption of high-energy foods. Overweight and obesity lead to abnormal or excess fat accumulation that may impair health. Overweight occurs in people whose body mass index is 25 or higher, and obesity occurs in people whose body mass index is 30 or higher. 

10 less known facts about obesity

1. Primary Reason for Obesity

Obesity is usually the result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. 

The fundamental cause of obesity is an imbalance of energy between calories consumed and calories burnt. According to WHO, globally, there has been an increased intake of high in fat and sugars. Coupled with increased physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work have increased the risk of obesity. Additionally, changing modes of transportation and increasing urbanization are reasons too. These two unhealthy lifestyle patterns are deteriorating not only the mental well being but also the physical well-being of the population.

2. Other Factors Responsible for Obesity:

However, obesity is not merely a result of a lack of control over eating habits. The following factors also cause it:

  • Genetic
  • Behavioural
  • Hormonal
  • Metabolic

Some genetic, behavioural, hormonal and metabolic mechanisms are beyond human control. However, research stated that people exposed to specific situations such as pregnancy, adolescence, and medical conditions such as PCOD, have a higher risk of obesity. In addition, genetics, parents’ dietary habits and body weight also put adolescents and children at risk of obesity. In such cases, forming healthy eating habits during childhood can prevent obesity and lifestyle-related issues.

3. What can Obesity Lead to?

The risk of obesity include:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Gynaecological and sexual problems

High Body Mass Index (BMI) can lead to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke). It also can cause muscle and bone disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints) and some cancers. The good news is obesity and non-communicable diseases related to it are preventable. People can limit energy intake from fats and sugars and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread throughout the week for adults).

4. Obesity: The Growing Numbers

Worldwide, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. For example, between 1980 and 2015 in India, it doubled in children and tripled in adults.

Over the last 35 years, countries have witnessed the prevalence of obesity in their citizens double and even quadruple. The risk factors include low physical activity, psychological conditions, certain medicines, pre and perinatal exposures, Calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food choices (e.g., sugar-sweetened beverages) etc. On the socio-economic front, the risk factors are poverty and poor literacy rate.

Children in low-income, under-developed countries are vulnerable to prenatal, young and infant child nutrition. But, on the other hand, they are also exposed to consuming food with high amounts of sugar, carbohydrates and high salt. This confluence of odds induces obesity among children while the undernutrition issues remain unsolved.

5. Difference between being Obese and Overweight

In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese.

Sometimes, it gets difficult to understand overweight and obese; overweight is an adjective. However, its medical definition corresponds to the BMI range of 25.0 – 29.9 kg/m2. 

However, obesity occurs with a BMI of 30.0 or greater. So now, it is easier to understand the difference between being overweight and obese.

6. In most countries, obesity kills more people than starvation does

As discussed above, in most countries, obesity kills more people than starvation due to socio-economic factors. As per WHO, overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 5-19 has risen dramatically from 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016. The rise has occurred similarly among boys and girls: in 2016, 18% of girls and 19% of boys were overweight.

7. Health Risk Percentage due to Obesity:

Almost 22% of Indian children are obese and face health risks.

8. Stats and Figures from India

A survey of urban Indians showed that 49% were overweight or had a body mass index of at least 25.

The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height and is expressed in units of kg/m², resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres. According to a survey, 49% of the urban population were overweight.

9. Stats and Figures from South Asia:

In South Asia, the likelihood of being overweight and obese is higher among the affluent sections of society. Moreover, it is higher than in the west, where lower socio-economic groups are more likely to be obese.

Metabolic obesity is common among Asians. Compared to the West, the socio-economic transitions in Asia have changed the overall dynamics of food intake among different sections of society. It is one of the reasons why affluent sections of society in South Asia are likely to be obese compared to the west.

10. Obesity is Preventable:

Although some people may have a propensity towards obesity, it is still preventable.

You can win all battles, and similarly, even though you may have a propensity towards obesity, it can be prevented. If you determine to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, it is preventable. There are other steps to follow to fight against obesity:

  • Ensure that you have healthy and nutritious choices at your discretion
  • Be responsible for your diet and implement a healthy lifestyle such as yoga, walking, & exercise.
  • Your diet should contain many complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. And it should limit the number of refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and saturated fats.

Understand your mental and emotional well-being; if you feel that your psychological health needs attention, pay attention to your overall health. On certain occasions, when we are high on emotions, our body is not in a balanced state. As a result, we either do not eat or consume more than what is required. In those cases, it is essential to monitor your mental health. Also, if, on some days, you are feeling low, do not give up; start with mild physical activity like cardio, yoga, aerobics and dance. These activities will lift your mood and motivate you to include physical activities in your lifestyle.

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About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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