Obesity, as explained by the World Health Organization, is abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. It is a chronic condition defined by an excess amount of body fat. People often use the terms ‘obesity‘ and ‘overweight‘ interchangeably. However, both terms are different and can be distinguished by using ‘Body Mass Index (BMI)’. BMI is a measure of whether a person is underweight, healthy or overweight. If a person is overweight, their BMI ranges between 25 and 29.9. On the other hand, an obese person has a BMI of over 30.
More than half of the Jamaican population is overweight or obese. Data from the 2016/17 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey showed that one in two Jamaicans or 54 per cent were overweight or obese; Jamaica Information Service. This high rate of obesity is one of the factors responsible for the nation’s increasing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) rate.
What Causes Obesity?
Obesity is caused by eating more calories than you burn on a long-term basis. Over time, these extra calories are converted into fat. Listed below are factors which cause obesity:
- eating a poor diet of foods high in fats and calories
- being physically inactive
- lack of sleep which can cause a person to feel hungrier and crave certain high-calorie foods
- growing older, which can lead to less muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate, making it easier to gain weight
Medical conditions including those listed below, can also cause obesity:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): a condition that causes an imbalance of female reproductive hormones
- Prader-Willi Syndrome: a rare condition that an individual is born with which causes excessive hunger
- Cushing Syndrome: a condition caused by having an excessive amount of the hormone cortisol in your system
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid): a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones.
- Osteoarthritis (and other conditions that cause pain that may lead to inactivity).
Complications of Obesity
Not only does obesity causes weight gain, but it also contributes to critical health conditions. Some of which include:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- certain cancers (breast, colon and endometrial)
- fatty liver disease
- high cholesterol
- sleep apnea and other breathing problems
‘Obesity is a problem that nearly every nation in the world is facing, but there is much that we can do to fix it’ – Richard Attias. Many factors contribute to obesity. However, some factors can be controlled by physical activity and maintaining a proper diet. Our health is our responsibility.