Obesity and overweight may soon replace more traditional health concerns like under nutrition and infectious diseases as the most significant cause of poor health and need to be controlled for longevity and a better quality of life, according to medical experts.

“A leading preventable cause of death worldwide, obesity is increasingly prevalent in adults and children and needs to be kept under control for longevity and better quality of life,” Dr C. Palanivelu, Founder President, Association of Minimal Access Surgeons of India (AMASI) said.

Obesity by itself and together with a host of other factors is a major risk factor predisposing to the most common and dangerous health disorders, especially Type II diabetes, he told PTI.

He quoted a WHO report which projected that approximately 2.3 billion adults would be overweight by 2015 and over 700 million would be obese.

“Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are sharply rising in low and middle income countries, particularly in urban settings,” he said.

Apart from diabetes, obesity comes with other high risk factors including hypertension, fatty liver, gall stones, high cholesterol, heart ailments and arthritis. “Obese patients also suffer from psychological issues, mainly depression and other neurological disorders,” Palanivelu said.

Dr Praveen Raj of GEM Hospital and Research Centre, Coimbatore, said the percentage of obesity is more in Southern states than in the North.

He said about 25 to 30 per cent of the population in USA, are obese, while it is 15 per cent in India.

Studies have shown obesity is prevalent more among women than in men and there is increase in obesity in rural areas, he added.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adult populations and individuals, Palanivelu said.

Increased BMI is a major risk factor for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease,mainly heart disease and strokes, already the world’s number one cause of death, killing 17 million people each year, he said.

“Being obese is not just a cosmetic problem, it is much more... evidence from around the world has clearly shown life expectancy of obese people is much shorter compared to others,” he said.

Palanivelu said overweight conditions and obesity, as well as related diseases, are largely preventable through diet modifications and exercise. A number of surgical options also exist to treat obesity,each with its advantages and pitfalls.

Palanivelu said the fundamental cause of obesity and overweight condition is energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expanded.

He said a number of factors have been attributed to global increases in these conditions, including a shift towards increased intake of energy-dense foods high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.

Another is decreased physical activity due to increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation and rapid urbanisation.

Apart from increased BMI, another risk is diabetes, which has rapidly become a global epidemic. “WHO has projected that diabetes deaths would increase by more than 50 per cent worldwide in the next 10 years,” he said.

Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood.

Palanivelu siad overweight conditions and obesity, as well as related diseases, are largely preventable through diet modifications and exercise. A number of surgical options also exist to treat obesity,each with its advantages and pitfalls.

For those unable to achieve significant weight loss by diet modifications and exercise, bariatric surgery may help one attain a more healthy body weight, succeeding in producing weight loss, though one must consider operative risks and side effects before pursuing this treatment option, he said.

Dr Praveen Raj of GEM Hospital and Research Centre, Coimbatore, said the percentage of obesity is more in Southern states than in the North.

He said about 25 to 30 per cent of the population in USA, are obese, while it is 15 per cent in India.

Studies have shown obesity is prevalent more among women than in men and there is increase in obesity in rural areas, he added.

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