There have recently been several articles suggesting that the risks involved in obesity and the costs to healthcare systems is much over exaggerated. There is even a suggestion that those obese people dying younger is not necessarily a bad thing. There have been quite a few articles appearing along the same lines. One called “The Big Fat Myths of our Obesity Epidemic” by Chris Snowdon. According to Snowdon, and others like him, “being fat is…an issue of personal health and private behavior”.
However, the way in which choices are made concerning the food we eat is not a simple matter. It involves far more than what it takes to get a Jackpot Capital casino download. Obesity is a disease. Like other diseases, obesity is a combination of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.
Obesity – a new phenomenon
No one, or perhaps a tiny number choose to become obese. It I only in the last few years that genes have been a causal factor in obesity. Obesity, and the obesity epidemic that we now found ourselves in, is a relatively new phenomenon. It has only arisen in the last 40 or 50 years and goes hand in hand with the huge increase in marketing and new budgets which have been promoting the sale of foods and drinks with “added value” which encourage eating in-between meals. The resulting obesity levels is difficult to prove but the truth is highly probable. Changing the causes of obesity means looking at, and changing behaviors that have become established as norms in society in general. No easy task.
Habits of lifestyle do not arise only from a person’s individual choice or from personal behavior but from particular life situations and these are very hard to alter with education. They have become established through ‘successful’ marketing. It has become normal to encourage the consumption of high calorie drinks and foods that are readily available, acceptable and inexpensive. Any improvement needs to involve a reduction of this behavior. It has been found that obesity effects more severely those who are among the more deprived members of society where education is perhaps less amenable.
In the United Kingdom, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is pushing for a ban on advertising junk foods directed at children. There has also been much support by the British Medical Association to stop junk foods being sold in hospitals. However, with 50% of all National Health Service employees being considered overweight, it seems that much more needs to be done. Education, it seems, doesn’t stand a chance when the environment you are in is working in opposition.
The consequences of obesity on the body build up gradually, and around the age of 40 the effects can be seen. Obesity will have an impact on all organs of the body which will lead to chronic medical problems. Diabetes is probably the most serious but it also leads to coronary heart disease and many different cancers. Obese people will likely suffer from all kinds of physical difficulties, from asthma, arthritis, breathlessness, fatigue and all kinds of aches and pains including back problems. Obesity often leads to feelings of shame and feelings of depression which can often exacerbate the situation.
It is thought that by the year 2030 as many as 75% of all adults in the United Kingdom will be overweight. Chris Snowdon argues that things are not nearly as bad as predicted. However, things are looking pretty serious already with the number at 68%. By the age of 65 many adults, around 80%, are carrying excess weight and many are in the obese category. In order to really understand obesity, it is important to look at more than just the BMI. It has proved beneficial to measure the waist circumference for a better understanding of the consequences of obesity. This measurement is able to predict a person’s total body fat.
Studies have found that weight and BMI tend to increase during young adulthood and then decreases with age. However, the same does not appear to be happening in terms of waist measurements which continues to increase throughout the years and up until people reach their seventies. Body fat continues be stored as we get older while at the same time our muscle mass is decreasing. Excess fat is not identified in BMI scores. Increased body fat and the problem of expanding waists is leading to more health problems, more people suffering from diabetes and other complications.
The future burden
The suggestion put forward by Snowdon and others, that obese people die younger and therefore this is saving money is farcical. It is basically dismissing the work done by those working in the field of chronic health problems and belittling those people struggling with obesity who for years have been battling to deal with it. “It is longevity, not premature mortality which places a burden on public finances.” With life expectancy on the rise and if those years are spent in relatively good health then the financial burden will not increase exponentially. A Lancet report suggested the GDP in the European Union to increase by 0.7% by 2060.
However, that will not be the case if increased life expectancy means dealing with a whole slew of medical problems. Along with obesity comes a whole range of medical issues, some of which need very expensive handling. Obese people need increased prescription medicines and healthcare expenses rise in line with increases in BMI, basically doubling from a BMI of 20 which is normal to 40 which is Obese.
There are 40% of UK adults over 65 considered obese, and 70% of these are already suffering with some form of chronic illness which is costing the healthcare system a lot of money. If the waist measurement is used to analyze the numbers instead of just the BMI number, then this figure would likely be higher.
Obesity is likely to be a serious burden on healthcare worldwide. In the United Kingdom alone the cost of treating obesity and its consequences has reached close to £6billion per annum. And there are additional costs that are incurred as a result of obesity which are also massive. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. A recent report showed that almost 3.9 million people in Britain have diabetes and 90% of those have type 2. This is appalling. Type 2 is a form of diabetes which is completely avoidable and can be managed with a healthy diet and loss of weight.
The Chief Executive of the National Health Service in the UK has called for “wide ranging action – as families, as health service, as government, as industry, using the full range of tools at our disposal” in order to fight the normalization of obesity in our society.
Our economic future depends on it, as does the future wellbeing of our health care system. There is no evidence out there to suggest that obesity is anything but a huge threat to our future and to our children’s future.