Facts of LifeObesity: Disease of the rich societies [Archives:2005/849/Health]

June 9 2005

By Dr. Khaled alNsour
For the Yemen Times

Obesity is more than just being a few pounds overweight. Those who are obese have a much greater strain on their heart and other organs than other people.

Obesity is a chronic condition that develops as a result of an interaction between a person's genetic makeup and their environment. How and why obesity occurs are not well understood; however, social, behavioral, cultural, psychological, metabolic, and genetic factors are involved. In fact, there have been studies that obesity could be linked to certain hormones in the body. Among possible hormones involved, leptin which was discovered in 1994, has received the most attention. Heritability studies indicate that genetic factors may be responsible for up to 70% of the variation in people's weight.

Obesity and Energy

Weight gain is dependent on a person's energy intake being greater than energy expenditure. One pound (0.45 kg) is equal to 3,500 calories. Therefore, a person consuming 500 calories more than he or she expends daily will gain 1 lb a week. The quality of life of those suffering from obesity is reduced as well. Obesity makes it very difficult to get the physical exercise needed in order to remain healthy and enjoy your favorite activities.


Dealing with obesity is very difficult without the help of a physician. Many obese people try to lose weight on their own by trying special diets and exercise routines that usually end in failure.

Obesity leads to a greatly increased risk of all of the following:

– Heart attack

– Stroke

– High blood pressure

– Diabetes

– Knee and joint problems

– Various types of cancer

– Premature death

Treating obesity-related disorders costs as much or more than illnesses caused by aging, smoking and problem drinking.

Economic costs

It accounts for 2 percent of the national health expenditure in France and Australia, more than 3 percent in Japan and Portugal and 4 percent in the Netherlands.

A review of research into the economic causes and consequences of obesity presented at the 14th

European Congress on Obesity showed that in 2003 up to $96.7 billion was spent on obesity problems in the United States. Obesity, which is a risk factor for chronic diseases like diabetes, is calculated using the body mass index (BMI) — dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.

The costs of dealing with the consequences of obesity rise along with the severity of the disorder. Being overweight or obese increases the odds of suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis, which are the major, reasons for obesity healthcare costs. An estimated 10-20 percent of men and 10-25 percent of women in European countries are obese.

Along with hefty health costs, obesity is also associated with a greater loss of productivity and increased rates of disability.

Despite the health and economic consequences of obesity, which affects more than 300 million people worldwide including a growing number of children and adolescents, health experts believe it is one of the most neglected public health issues.

Each Daily Soda Increases Obesity Risk 60%

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola Author of the Total Health Program, for every soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage a child drinks every day, their obesity risk appears to jump 60%. About 65% of adolescent girls and 74% of adolescent boys consume soft drinks daily.

A study conducted in USA and which included over 500 schoolchildren of various ethnic backgrounds who were aged 11 and 12 found that for every can or glass of sugar-sweetened beverage a child drank during the 19-month study, a child's body mass index — a measure of weight related to height — and their chance of becoming obese increased 60%.