What are overweight and obesity?
Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).
A. For adults, WHO defines overweight and obesity as follows:
- Overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25.
- Obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals.
B. For children, age needs to be considered when defining overweight and obesity.
1. Children under 5 years of age
- Overweight is weight-for-height greater than 2 standard deviations above WHO Child Growth Standards median.
- Obesity is weight-for-height greater than 3 standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
2. Children aged between 5–19 years
- Overweight is BMI-for-age greater than 1 standard deviation above the WHO Growth Reference median.
- Obesity is greater than 2 standard deviations above the WHO Growth Reference median.
What causes obesity and overweight?
The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
- Increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat.
- Increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.
What are common health consequences of overweight and obesity?
Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke).
- Raise blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis )
- Some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).
The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with increases in BMI. Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks obese children experience:
- Breathing difficulties.
- Increased risk of fractures.
- Early markers of cardiovascular disease.
- Insulin resistance.
- Psychological effects.
How can overweight and obesity be reduced?
Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, by making the choice of healthier foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice and therefore preventing overweight and obesity.At the individual level, people can:
- Limit energy intake from total fats and sugars.
- Consume less calories than your body needs.
- Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts.
- Engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults).
- Change unhealthy behaviors.
The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:
- Reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods.
- Ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers.
- Restricting marketing of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, especially those foods aimed at children and teenagers.
- Ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.
Tips for parents to help kids develop healthy eating habits:
Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate number of calories.
A. Encourage healthy eating habits.
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.
- Include low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
- Serve reasonably sized portions.
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
B. Make favorite dishes healthier:
Some of your favorite recipes can be healthier with a few changes example use whole-wheat pasta instead of enriched pasta.
C. Remove calorie-rich temptations:
You can eat a healthy snack like: Medium-size apple, or banana / 1 cup blueberries/ 1 cup grapes/ 1 cup carrots, or broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. humus.
D. Help kids stay active:
Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. You can set a great example! Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include: Jumping rope, Playing soccer, Swimming, Dancing.
E. Reduce sedentary time:
Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit “screen time” (TV, video games, Internet) to no more than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for kids age 2 or younger.12 Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.
References:"Anti Obesity." MEDIA CENTER :Obesity and Overweight. N.p., June 2016. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.
"Anti Obesity." Treating Obesity as a Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.
"Anti Obesity." Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers. N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.