Obesity a Global Crisis

All over the world people are getting more overweight and obese. Obesity is now an epidemic. The World Health Organization defines obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The American Medical Association classified it as a disease. More women than men are obese. Children are getting overweight and obese more so than ever. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of the BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children. The BMI-for-age percentile growth chart is a way of assessing children’s weights for boys and girls of similar ages. Obesity used to be considered a sign of health, wealth and prosperity. In some cultures, men prefer women who are overweight or obese. Women are considered “fluffy” which is their preference.

What is causing this obesity crisis?

Over the years there has been a growing trend in obesity particularly in western societies. In the United States, about 34% of adults and 15-20% of children and adolescents are obese. Why are so many people overweight and obese? Diets and lifestyle practices change when societies get more modern. Does modernization of societies, changes in diets and lifestyle practices, eating foods high in calories, not moving as we should contribute to this “globesity” epidemic? Ongoing research is finding answers to this question.

Different diets exist informing us about what we are to eat. When I attended medical school in the 1970’s the focus of our medical curriculum was the treatment of disease and not prevention. We learned about the different systems in the body to process the foods we eat, the components of various types of food and the value they bring to the body. Problems occur in the cells of our body when there are not enough nutrients required to carry out these processes. We are not aware that something is happening, there are no signs and symptoms at this stage. When many cells are damaged we begin to feel the effects in parts of the body that are affected and not functioning as they should. Eating a balanced diet every day gives us the right amounts of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats and plant nutrients needed by our cells to stay healthy. This allows us to have healthy tissues and organs.

Consequences of obesity

In the past, small farmers grew different crops and raised a variety of animals which were enough to feed their families and the community. Fresh fruits and vegetables were readily available to prepare healthy meals. Wide open spaces allowed children to run up and down while playing and adults were active in carrying out the various duties on the farm. Cars trains and buses were not readily available so people had to walk, sometimes for long distances to get to where they were going. Mass food production has replaced many small farms. Food sometimes is transported over long distances, kept in storage before being sold to consumers. Food processing, less grass-fed cattle, the addition of sugar and salt may not supply the required nutrients.

The choices we make about the foods we eat and our lifestyle affects our health when we get older. Our blood sugar tends to rise when our waistline increases as a result of increasing amounts of fat in our belly. There is an increase in insulin production from the pancreas when our blood sugar is high. Insulin maintains our blood sugar levels in the normal range. The result of cells not responding to insulin is the release of more insulin from the pancreas. This condition is called insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes. Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals the rates for type 2 diabetes have tripled in the United States over the last 30 years due to the global epidemic of obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide.

Waist measurement in women above 34 inches, in men above 37 inches increases the risk for heart disease and heart attack. Fat accumulating in organs such as the liver interferes with its normal functioning. Cancers of the breast, gallbladder, womb, kidney, pancreas, liver, stomach, ovary, esophagus occur more often in obese persons. Obesity affects the skin. Increased thickness, dryness, sweating, discolored patches found at the back of the neck, armpits and inner thigh may indicate insulin resistance and diabetes. Poor circulation increases the chances of poor wound healing. Overweight and obese children and adults may suffer from poor body image, depression and other psychological problems

Can obesity be reversed?

The answer is yes. Reading food labels when we go grocery shopping is something that we should do. We are better able to understand the contents of what we are buying and consuming. Our bodies need healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from fruits and vegetables every day. It is essential for us to drink water and we should be more active. 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbohydrates are the recommended portions to eat. Fiber helps our gut to function better. A healthy bowel with good bacteria helps to better digest and absorb the nutrients from food. Eating a protein snack in between meals satisfies hunger. Adequate amounts of protein keep you feeling full longer, food cravings are controlled. Protein is a fat burner. It gives you energy and you do not feel as tired as you used to. Protein maintains your muscle mass while you are losing weight to prevent you from getting flabby. The fiber present in fruits and vegetables helps not only to control your weight but lowers fat absorption. This helps in maintaining blood cholesterol within the normal levels.

Walking can help reduce obesity.

Exercise is important in achieving good health. Walking for 30 minutes every day has been shown to lower risk for diabetes. Losing approximately 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy way to lose weight. Dieting is temporary, healthy living is what we should try to do for the rest of our lives. It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Why not take the first step today!

 

 

 

“Doing the best for this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment” —–Oprah Winfrey

About Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie

Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, is Certified by The North American Menopause Society as a Menopause Expert and is a Weight Management Coach. She has over 30 years of experience in training, lecturing and public speaking and is an advocate for women’s health.

6 Comments

  1. Cecile Maxine Ruddock-Small on September 4, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    Dr Verna,
    Thanks for reminding me about the importance of controlling ones weight, eating healthily and exercising daily.
    I am now learning to pay attention to labels on foods. My greatest challenges are taking time to exercise; walking more; and trying to not sit at a desk all day.
    Do provide any tips for persons like myself.
    The website is very attractive and has a clear layout.
    Congratulations! You are off to a good beginning.



    • Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie on September 4, 2018 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Maxine,
      Thanks for visiting Ask Dr. Verna, thanks for your compliments on the website and thanks also for your comments on the importance of incorporating a healthy active lifestyle into our daily routine. You have addressed a very important point. It’s not a good thing for anyone to sit at a desk all day. Blood circulation is slowed, risk of developing a blood clot in the leg is increased especially in persons who are more susceptible to clotting. It’s encouraging to see that you are reading food labels and taking charge of your health. You are definitely off to a good start, kudos to you! We will be providing helpful tips. …Best wishes.



  2. Rashida Gopie on September 5, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Dr. Verna,
    This article is a testament to the knowledge you have imparted to me. I did exactly what you had recommended doing during your visit in June to Jamaica, at the time of visit I believe I was 151lbs she was here for a week and within a week I was at 147.5lbs. I incorporated her healthy lifestyle advice along with her recommendation of keeping active. Part of your success to a healthy journey is making the healthy lifestyle a habit which I have. No “globesity” but “glohealthy”. Great job Dr. Verna



    • Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie on September 7, 2018 at 2:43 am

      Hi Rashida,
      Thank you for visiting Ask Dr. Verna. My mission is to impart my knowledge and I’m glad to see that the information you received has been helpful. Keep up the good work! A healthy active lifestyle is the way to minimize or even eliminate the effects of chronic diseases. Please remember this is a lifetime commitment!



  3. T. Reynolds on September 7, 2018 at 1:08 am

    What a comprehensive article! It provides history, research and your in-depth knowledge on the topic. Luckily for me, I haven’t had even a cold in the last 12 years (knock on wood) and I never had a problem with weight management. Yet, I understand clearly that Obesity is a challenge for many people.

    Obesity is in deed a crisis in many parts of the world and it begs the ‘hard and rude’ questions of “How did they make this happen?”, “Didn’t they see this was happening?” , “Why didn’t they stop it?”. I point to these questions because Obesity could just be a decision that got out of hand. Probably started through depression, anxiety, and not caring. In such cases a person will remain Obese until their mental state as changed. What are your thoughts?



    • Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie on September 7, 2018 at 2:21 am

      Hello Tameka, Thank you for visiting Ask Dr. Verna and taking the time to read the article on obesity. It has indeed gotten out of hand. Fist let me congratulate you on having good health. It is a testament to the fact that you obviously have been leading a healthy active lifestyle. As you asked, “didn’t they see this coming”? That is the million dollar question!

      There are some persons who may have a medical problem such as low thyroid function (hypothyroid) that presents with weight gain therefore correcting that problem will help to correct the weight gain in conjunction with healthier food options. Certain medications may also cause weight gain as a side effect so the objective is to try to find out what is causing the weight gain and institute corrective measures.

      Research is showing that consuming sugary drinks is a big contributing factor and we are encouraged to drink water instead. The bottom line is this, eating healthier foods in the categories outlined, moving more than you are accustomed to and having a healthy bowel are the keys to good health. Eating the right amount of protein will help to shrink fat while maintaining your muscle mass is the healthier way to achieve the goal of weight reduction. It is a life time commitment. This problem needs to be corrected also at a governmental level in partnership with the food production and restaurant industries. Educating the consumer on how to read food labels is key.