If you are a healthy eater who exercises regularly and are big boned, you’re doing great. Kudos to you! But otherwise, if you are overweight, you need to take notice. It’s high time obesity stopped getting ignored. It is a crisis with a worldwide prevalence. World Health Organization calls it a “global epidemic,” as obesity nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008. In fact, WHO estimates that across the globe, over 42 million children aged less than 5 years are already obese, and will grow up to be obese adults. It is also observed that they will be more susceptible to non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
How Obesity Creates a Vicious Cycle with Chronic Disease
Obesity leads to premature morbidity and mortality, along with becoming a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. This is because all three diseases are strongly influenced by adiposity (being severely overweight). In addition, once you are hit by these illnesses, they simply worsen your obesity problem.
Experts recommend lifestyle modification as first-line management, but not all physicians routinely counsel their patients on this.
What is Obesity?
If you weigh more than 20% of what your ideal weight should be, you are considered obese. Some doctors follow the BMI formula (Body Mass Index formula) which considers anyone with a BMI of over 30 to be obese. However, obesity has more to do with how much body fat you’re carrying, rather than how much you weigh. As a rough guideline, you will be considered obese if –
- Being a man, you have more than 30% body fat, or
- Being a woman, you have more than 40% body fat.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Back pain
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Breathing problems
- Sleep problems
- Gallbladder stones
Where you carry this extra body fat also comes into play. Those who carry excess weight around their stomach are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, as compared to those who carry extra weight around their hips and thighs.
Obesity Increases the Risk of Developing Diabetes
Research links obesity, particularly truncal obesity, with the prevalence of diabetes. Studies have linked the hormone resistin (produced by adipose cells which interfere with normal insulin function) to, both, obesity and diabetes.
Once you have diabetes, the body goes into a vicious cycle. Either it can’t make insulin or the insulin produced in the body doesn’t work like it should. Insulin is a hormone that is crucial for transporting sugar to cells. Without it, extra sugar circulates throughout the body, damaging many organs. As your cells reject sugar as a source of energy, the body is forced to store excess sugar in the liver and fat cells, making you fat. Yet, the cells are energy-starved, so they keep sending hunger signals. The best way to address this is by eating good fats instead of carbs, so that the fat can be used as a fuel for the body and not just get collected around fat-deposit prone areas.
An LCHF diet, or Low-Carb-High-Fat diet, can help in losing weight faster, and can also help in reversing diabetes. Losing weight can improve glycemic control greatly and help with better management of diabetes.
Obesity is Often the One to Blame for Cardiovascular Diseases
Obesity significantly increases the risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Research has found that insulin resistance and inflammation form important links between obesity and cardiovascular disease.
“Carrying extra abdominal fat negatively affects blood pressure, blood lipids and the body’s natural ability to use insulin effectively. Also, this extra fat interferes with normal heart function, damaging the heart muscle even before symptoms are evident.”
Scientists have found that obesity has a direct effect on heart structure and function, even in the absence of other obesity-related health risks. This holds true even for young obese people.
Excess Weight Gain Causes Hypertension
Obesity increases the risk of developing hypertension. Waist circumference has been reported as the strongest independent predictor of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
According to research, obesity activates the sympathetic nervous system (our body’s flight or fight response). This could be the primary reason behind obesity-related hypertension. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods can substantially lower blood pressure.
Obesity Linked to Chronic Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome
Scientists have now found that being obese activates an immune response that causes the body to generate excessive inflammation. This may lead to a number of chronic diseases. Arthritis and cardiovascular disease, both, are now identified as chronic inflammatory diseases. Research has also linked type 2 diabetes with inflammation and metabolic syndrome.
Being Overweight affects Bones and Leads to Osteoarthritis
Research has shown that obesity results in reduced bone density, as well as in an increased risk of fractures, even in those with normal bone density.
Obesity accelerates the wear on the joints and spine and is a major risk factor for arthritis. In particular, osteoarthritis of the knees is a big concern for obese people. The greater the weight is on a joint, the more stressed the joint is. Thus, the likelihood of it getting worn out and damaged is greater. This is a vicious cycle too since those who are obese are at a greater risk of developing arthritis. Once they have arthritis, the additional weight causes more problems on already damaged joints and makes it harder to lose weight. Obesity also affects spinal mechanics. Carrying extra weight around the abdomen exerts more compressive force on the spinal column, leading to disc pathology and back pain.
Obesity is Associated with Gastrointestinal Disorders
In the last few years, researchers have strived to understand the association between gastrointestinal disorders and obesity. Research has identified obesity as an independent risk factor for GERD and erosive esophagitis. Obesity is also a well-recognized risk factor for gallstones. Obesity has also been associated with abdominal pain, diarrhea, stomach distention and delayed gastric emptying.
Excess Weight Makes You Susceptible to Mental Illness
Scientists have found a close association between obesity and mental illness. Obesity not only increases the risk of depression, but is also linked to mood and anxiety disorders, distorted body image and low self-esteem. Obesity has been linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD as well.
Let’s Fight Obesity!
As you can see, obesity leads to some serious chronic illnesses. Losing weight may be your best defense against illnesses that have the ability reduce the quality of life.
One of the best ways to lose weight is through an LCHF diet. So many of us wrongly believe that eating fats makes us fat. The truth is far from this! The true offenders are simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates break down into sugars. These sugars are readily absorbed into the blood stream and raise blood glucose levels. By eating little to no refined carbohydrates, you prevent this process from happening altogether. Eating excess protein is not the way to go either since too much dietary protein is readily converted into glucose by the body. The real solution is to eat more healthy fats.
The LCHF or Low Carb-High Fat diet focuses on low carbohydrate-moderate protein-high fat combination. Focus on eating a lot of vegetables and natural healthy fats like avocados, nuts, fatty fish, grass-fed butter, coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Add a spoonful of butter to your tea/coffee and you’ll find that it makes you feel full really fast. In fact, you can completely skip breakfast if your morning cup of tea/coffee fills you up! Cooking with these heart-healthy fats helps with satiety and keeps the appetite in check too.
We also highly recommend Intermittent Fasting, a concept first introduced by Canadian nephrologist, Dr. Jason Fung. Fasting is the fastest and simplest method to force your body to burn sugar for energy. When you follow a regular meal pattern, glucose in the blood becomes a readily accessible source of energy for the body. However, during intermittent fasting, since there is no immediate glucose available in the blood from a recently consumed meal, the body is forced to use stored fat for energy. The result? You burn off the stored sugar and fat in your body. Intermittent fasting, coupled with the LCHF diet, is the most effective method for weight loss and also for stabilizing blood sugar levels.