Obesity is the accumulation of excess or abnormal fat that may impair health. In adults, the BMI (Body Mass Index) is the commonly used index for weight and height classifications. The BMI of a person is measured by dividing his weight against in kilograms against his height in meters squared. In adults obesity defined as follows by the WHO;
• BMI greater than or equal to 25 as overweight
• BMI equal to or greater than 30 as obesity
Age in children plays a significant role in the definition of obesity. Children under the age of five years are considered obese if their weight-for-height is greater than 3 standard deviations in the WHO child growth standard median. The WHO Growth Reference considers children between the ages of 5-19 years obese if their weight-for-height is above 2 standard deviations.
Facts about obesity
In 2016, about 13% of the world’s population was considered obese where out of these figures, 11% were men while 15% were women. In the same year about 41 million, children below 15 years were obese, while 340 million children between the ages of 5-19 years were obese. Obesity has for long been considered a problem in high income countries, however things are now changing as there has recently been a rise in obesity in both middle and low income countries too. For example since 2000, there has been an increase in obesity related cases in Africa where the number has been escalating with an estimated value of 50% in children. In Asia, nearly half of the children under the age of 5 years were considered obese in a data collected in 2016. More deaths have also been linked to obesity and overweight as compared to deaths from underweight related issues.
Causes of obesity
Obesity is mainly caused by the asymmetry in energy levels between calories which is used up and that which is consumed. There has been a global increase in; (a) intake of foods that are energy dense and high in fats.(b) Increase in physical dormancy due to the desk bound nature of the structure of work, urbanization and different forms of transport. Environmental and societal changes have led to changes in both physical patterns and dietary. Lack of support of actions in the health sectors, agriculture, education and transport has also added to some of the changes seen.
A rise in the level of BMI results in a number of communicable diseases such as;
• Cardiovascular diseases (stroke and heart attack).
• Cancer (kidney and colon)
• Musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis)
The risk of the diseases has also been found to increase with an increase in the levels of BMI. Some disabilities and premature deaths have been linked to childhood obesity where children grew to adulthood with the condition. Obese children also have trouble in breathing, hypertension, and resistance in insulin, fractures increase and psychological effects. Obesity, overweight and other non-communicable disease can be prevented. A community and an environment, which is supportive, are key in the shaping of peoples choices. People can make the best choices in terms of eating healthier foods and regular physical exercises, which will culminate to reduction and prevention of obesity and overweight related issue. At individual levels, one can limit the intake of fats and sugary foods increase the intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. Individuals should also engage in regular physical activities. In terms of promotion of healthy diets, the food industry can also play significant roles in that it can ensure;
• Processed food have reduced contents in levels of fats and sugar
• All consumers can afford healthy foods.
• Foods intended for children and teenagers have reduced sugar, fats and salts.
• Support of regular physical activities.