How to Prevent Obesity & Its Consequences
Before discussing how to prevent obesity, we have to address its causes and why this condition is so severe. The obesity epidemic is getting worse all around the world. It’s particularly dangerous because it can lead to many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, to name a few.
In this detailed guide, we’ll talk about all the ways you can prevent becoming obese, what’s causing you to gain weight, what nutrition changes can be done to help those affected by obesity, and why all of this matters. So, keep scrolling to discover more!
What Is Considered Obese vs. Overweight?
The World Health Organization (WHO) produced the body mass index (BMI) as an indicator to determine the presence and degree of obesity. The BMI is calculated as the body mass (in kilograms) divided by the square of the body height (in meters) and universally expressed in kg/m2. Therefore, a BMI of over 25 is considered overweight, whereas over 30 is obese. So, calculating the BMI is the first action against obesity.
Measuring BMI is not an ideal indicator of obesity because it doesn’t consider how muscular a person is. Also, muscles weigh more than fat, so a very muscular and athletic person can easily have a BMI over 25, which doesn’t mean they have excess body weight.
Because of that, some health organizations and specialists who try to combat obesity use modified formula variations that take into account gender, age, and other factors. Whether someone is overweight vs. obese, and the various degrees of obesity are listed below:
- A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is defined as a “pre-obese.”
- A person with a BMI of 30 to 34.99 is defined as “obese class I.”
- A person with a BMI of 35 to 39.99 is defined as “obese class II.”
- A person with a BMI of or greater than 40.00 is defined as “obese class III.”
Types of Obesity
There are two forms of morbid obesity: centripetal and peripheral. The first type is characterized by fat deposits mainly around the abdomen. It is primarily typical for men. In contrast, the peripheral type has a higher fat accumulation in the hip and thighs area and is more common in women. Sometimes the two forms of obesity are defined as apple and pear-shaped due to the distinctive shape of the body.
If you’re wondering: “Who is at risk of obesity?”— it might be helpful to use another critical index: waist/hips or waist circumference. Here, too, there are individual differences between genders. You can generally go by values above 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women, which are considered the indicators of centripetal obesity.
Another measurement used to define the ideal body weight is the percentage of total body fat. The exact correlation between it and BMI and its indicative value is still in the process of being clarified. However, for each BMI value, the body fat percentage in females is higher than in men.
The State of Obesity in the US
The estimated prevalence of obesity in the United States is 42.4%. Moreover, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity-related disorders in the US alone is around $190.2 billion, where the total medical fee for people with obesity is $1,861 per person.
Most statistics also show that some obesity-related conditions are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death. The most concerning conditions associated with obesity include stroke, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
As the percentage of the population over 65 increases, the prevalence of being overweight has also increased. This phenomenon of obesity in elderly people is still undergoing research and debate on treatment options. The problem is complicated because it usually accompanies other diseases.
As for elderly obesity, overweight and truly obese elderly adults are at the end of the BMI spectrum. One of the main concerns about treating this group is that many don’t have a high enough level of musculature in the body, which may be worsened by weight loss. A well-prepared training program that maintains the right muscle mass will accompany any chosen weight loss method.
What Causes Obesity?
In modern medicine, obesity is seen as a disease whose etiology is too complicated and multifactorial and is still poorly studied. The role of genetic and endocrine factors, sleep deprivation, stress, smoking, etc., are also considered obesity causes.
Knowing the fundamental causes is the first step to preventing obesity. Some of the most common causes of obesity include:
- frequent eating
- a diet that’s high in simple carbs and saturated fats
- physical inactivity
- specific diseases like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance
- certain medications
- psychological factors, such as stress, sadness, or anger
- social issues
How Can Sugar Lead to Obesity?
To be more precise, nearly every standard weight loss diet is based on cutting carbs—simple, refined sugars—and for a good reason. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the main culprits of the modern-day obesity epidemic, in addition to the increasingly sedentary lifestyle. We know that eating habits and obesity are intertwined, but why does sugar lead to weight gain?
Well, for starters, it can be found everywhere—from sweets and soda to savory foods. And unlike glucose which can be used by every cell in the body, fructose is a sugar that is not a part of normal human metabolic processes, and it can only be used by liver cells. This, in turn, messes with the hormones that play a vital role in the pathophysiology of obesity, causing:
- Overeating because the body doesn’t recognize fructose as effectively as it does glucose and doesn’t respond with the same ghrelin levels (the “hunger” hormone), which is supposed to tell us when we’re full.
- Insulin resistance that leads to prediabetes and diabetes.
- Resistance to the hormone leptin that’s secreted by fat cells and acts as a signal to the brain, telling us that we have sufficient energy reserves and don’t need to eat, causes further overeating.
- Sugar addiction because it has powerful effects on the reward systems in the brain, stimulating opiate and dopamine activity similar to some drugs.
Common Obesity Symptoms
The most common symptoms and signs observed in obese people include:
- weight gain
- increased or excessive BMI
- higher or excessive waist circumference
- increased accumulation of visceral fat
- shortness of breath
- increased sweating
- inability to manage routine daily physical activities
- feeling tired
- back and joint pain
- low self-esteem and confidence
- feelings of isolation
Sometimes, symptoms of diabetes can be observed along with these symptoms of obesity, including extreme tiredness, thirst, and frequent urination, especially at night. Since diabetes and obesity often go together, it’s best to watch for these additional symptoms.
Why Is It Important to Prevent Obesity?
Extreme bodyweight is linked to various diseases, particularly:
- high cholesterol levels
- high triglyceride levels
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes mellitus
- some types of cancers
- obstructive sleep apnea
So, that’s one of the crucial reasons to start finding ways to prevent obesity. Furthermore, It has been demonstrated that obesity decreases life expectancy in those who are extremely obese by around 5–20 years. Data on obesity also shows that excessive weight gain is one of the leading preventable causes of death globally, so finding a solution to obesity is vital. A BMI over 32 is associated with a doubled female mortality rate over 16 years. It is estimated that at least 2.8 million deaths per year are caused by overweight and obesity in America.
The Paradox of Survival
Although the adverse effects of obesity on one’s health are fully supported by the medical evidence available, the health outcomes in some subgroups seem to improve with an increase in BMI. This is a phenomenon known as the ”obesity paradox.” This paradox of survival was first described in 1999 in obese and overweight people undergoing hemodialysis and was subsequently established in those with heart failure and peripheral arterial disease.
In people suffering from heart failure, those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 have lower mortality than those of average weight. This is because people often lose weight when their health is gradually getting worse. A study found that increased survival could be explained by the more aggressive treatment of obesity after a heart attack.
Here are some ways through which you can prevent obesity:
- Follow a healthy diet plan with lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy products, and whole grains, as nutrition and obesity are interrelated.
- Stop eating junk or processed foods, fatty and sugary foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Use vegetable-based oil instead of animal-based fats.
- Get enough sleep because it helps reduce stress.
Fast food and obesity are mutually related since processed food has limited or near nonexistent nutritional value. Nevertheless, these food products are eaten in vast quantities at entertainment or sports events, while traveling, or in front of the TV.
As most often these are chocolate, sweets, ice cream, potato chips, etc., the first thing to do if you want to know how to prevent obesity is to stop eating junk food. It’s well-established how sugar can lead to obesity, but foods rich in saturated fats are also risky for obesity due to their high-calorie content.
Ways to Fight Obesity in Children During the Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, obesity has put children at an increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Therefore, a list of solutions to obesity in children during these challenging times includes:
- Consuming healthy food—The American Heart Association suggests children aged 2–18 take less than 25 grams of added sugar a day and drink less than one 8-ounce sugary drink a week.
- Eat well on a budget—Make sure you plan before buying.
- Drink enough water—The recommended dosage is the number of 8-ounce glasses equal to their age, with a maximum of eight glasses for children aged nine and older.
- Involve your kids in the kitchen—strategies to prevent obesity suggest this, as when children see you prepare healthy food, they will also get accustomed to eating it.
- Promote physical activity—At least an hour a day.
- Limit screen time—As many of them eat while watching TV or playing games.
Medical Options for the Treatment and Prevention of Obesity
Currently, a few medicines inhibit pancreatic lipases in the gastrointestinal tract, helping prevent fats from being absorbed in the small intestine. This process is one of the solutions to the obesity epidemic. Products containing sibutramine—an oral anorexigen—were available in Europe and the US until 2010.
Sibutramine works in the brain, suppressing the appearance of hunger without exerting antidepressant effects. However, it was pulled from the US and European markets due to cardiovascular risk concerns. Moreover, neither of these types of medication can solely be used for obesity prevention if you aren’t paying attention to your caloric intake and physical activity.
Nowadays, new drugs are being developed to treat obesity. They also help suppress feelings of hunger at the central level (in the brain) and reduce the absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract while still creating a sense of satiety, like the drugs mentioned earlier.
Bariatric surgery, or so-called weight loss surgery, is the latest treatment of obesity for people with severe obesity (a BMI of 40 or more) who have failed to lose weight after dieting and increased physical activity, as well as after proper drug therapy. In some cases, a BMI above 35 may also be an indication of surgical intervention.
These patients should also be at high risk of severe complications due to obesity to qualify for the surgical alternative. Although they lead to drastic weight loss, surgical interventions always present the risk of complications, and not everyone with a severe form of obesity is suitable for bariatric surgery.
Lifestyle Changes for Obesity Treatment and Prevention
People often ask how they can prevent obesity. There’s no need to worry: there are some legitimate ways through which you can prevent obesity. There are a few natural remedies that can help you get rid of excess fat quickly but safely.
Home Remedies for Obesity
According to 100homeremedies.com, some of the ingredients that can help you lose weight naturally include:
Apple cider vinegar. It’s a great idea to begin with apple cider vinegar for weight loss. As we’ve learned that obesity and healthy eating are interlinked, this remedy is the absolute best natural option to help weight loss. It contains acetic acid, which encourages anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory processes. You should use it in salad dressings or drink it twice a day mixed with water and a bit of honey to get fast results.
Cinnamon. Maybe you haven’t heard about cinnamon as a remedy, but it helps combat obesity and improves weight loss. Aside from obesity, it also helps alleviate the symptoms of heart disease and diabetes (this is especially important since around half of all cases of obesity and diabetes are linked). Use it often in low-sugar desserts or mix cinnamon powder with warm water, lemon, and a small amount of honey and drink it daily on an empty stomach.
Garlic. Yes, garlic is an excellent ingredient for obesity prevention. It’s also an antioxidant, antibiotic, and full of vitamins and minerals. You can use garlic as a remedy to get efficient results in no time. Whenever you cook, add 1–2 tsp of grated garlic to your food, or try some garlic supplements if you don’t like its taste.
To help make the prevention and control of obesity more effective, consider replacing the more caloric foods in your kitchen with fruits and vegetables. Because these contain more fiber, they create a feeling of fullness, despite having fewer calories. More on diet and obesity—consuming more whole grains and nuts at the expense of sugars and fats, especially animal-derived fats, is also effective.
Continually note the calorie count of everything you eat, which is labeled on each purchased product. You should know that one gram of protein or carbohydrates contains four calories, whereas one gram of fat has a whopping nine calories. Prevention is also important because we know that most problems with maintaining a healthy weight as an adult stem from childhood obesity.
As you can see, preparing a balanced diet that meets your energy needs while also providing the right vitamins and minerals is a complex task. It’s best to find professional help from a nutritionist who will prepare a diet tailored to your specific personal needs. To lose two pounds of fat in a week, you will need to have a calorie deficit of 7,000 calories per week or 1,000 per day.
How to prevent obesity?—Maintaining high physical activity is one way to do it. It leads to successful weight loss and, perhaps even more importantly, optimal weight retention. Of course, you should gradually increase this kind of activity, keeping your capabilities and limits in mind. In addition to burning calories, sports accelerate your metabolism, thereby contributing to continued weight loss even after the workout.
So if you’re wondering how to lose weight, remember that cardio exercises will effectively contribute to the weight loss process, but don’t skip the weights as well because they will help you keep the weight off. Increasing your muscle mass through strength training makes it easier to effectively burn calories on sustaining the body’s physiological processes, i.e., speeding up your metabolism. Namely, more muscles=more calories burned while seemingly doing nothing but sustaining the basic energy consumption of the body—the basal metabolic rate. That’s what makes maintaining your new weight so much easier.
Being overweight or obese results from an impaired energy balance, as obesity is a lifestyle disease. A disrupted energy balance in different individuals can be due to various factors. Individual behavior, environmental factors, and genetic factors all contribute to the complexity of the obesity epidemic.
To understand the best way for obesity prevention and control, considerable effort has to be made focusing on each of these factors individually. Obesity can’t be resolved without a holistic approach.
What does obesity do to your body?
Your body needs more oxygen to maintain itself when there’s excessive body fat. The heart must pump more blood to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Also, the more fat you accumulate in your arteries, the more they narrow—a condition called atherosclerosis. Because of this, the heart has to work even harder. Furthermore, obesity also makes your body more prone to conditions like depression and diabetes.
Who is at risk for obesity?
People who sleep less, eat unhealthily, and don’t have enough physical activity risk becoming obese. Additionally, obese parents usually have obese children. Genes associated with obesity, like the FMO gene (fat mass and obesity), stimulate the fat accumulation process when deactivated.
So, is obesity genetic? Although sometimes it is a leading factor, genetic heritage is not the only factor in the genesis of obesity. Instead, obesity is brought on by multiple factors. Whether one or multiple genes lead to a predisposition to fat accumulation, the factors related to obesity also include a person’s environment and overall way of life. Therefore, if multiple family members are obese, this can be brought on by similar eating habits. Even though scientists have suggested genes’ vital role in obesity, this topic still calls for more research.
What is the best diet for an obese person?
Low-carbohydrate, high-protein, Аtkins, paleo, ketogenic, etc.—the list of modern diets continues indefinitely. And they all offer foods that prevent obesity. The truth is that any diet can be helpful in the short term. The only thing required to take off a few pounds is a high-enough calorie deficit.
As many obesity prevention programs imply, the problem comes after the diet when we have to maintain the new weight. Therefore, the best diet is the one that will allow you to keep your achieved results. This is strictly individual and depends on certain conditions, personal characteristics, and preferences.
What are schools doing to prevent obesity?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, school sessions shouldn’t start before 8:30, as this can harm children’s health and learning processes. Pediatricians also announced that a lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity and depression. However, nutrition and physical activity should also be improved to prevent obesity in children.
How can exercise prevent obesity?
Even some intensive exercise once a week can protect us from obesity. This increases the level of oxygen absorption by around 10–20%. Moreover, the exercises improve glucose use, burning fat while decreasing blood pressure. Additionally, one of the best ways to control stress is regular physical activity.
How to deal with being overweight?
There are several things you can do to address this problem, including:
- Exercising regularly.
- Following a healthy diet.
- Identifying and avoiding the food traps causing you to eat.
- Regularly monitoring your weight.
- Being consistent.
How to stop obesity?
We’ve talked about numerous methods to prevent obesity. That said, let’s focus on the most critical 10 ways to control obesity:
- Eat varied, nutritionally dense food.
- Keep a food and weight diary.
- Exercise and engage in physical activity.
- Eliminate liquid calories.
- If you want to know how to lower BMI, control portions and measure servings.
- Eat reasonably.
- Stimulus and cue control (some people overeat while watching TV).
- Plan ahead.
- Find social support.
- Stay positive.
How can we stop the obesity epidemic?
It would have to start with adopting a policy that addresses nutrition and the health problems causing obesity. Community obesity prevention programs should also address that. They should provide information, make changes within the food industry, and encourage research into diet and physical activity.
If you want to know how to prevent obesity, the goal is to promote a healthier diet and an active lifestyle for everyone while also improving education. The strategy considers the needs of different target groups, including people with less financial resources and fewer opportunities.