People face many challenges and hardships in the modern world. Sometimes, these hardships are caused when biting off more than one can chew. Or in the case of Obesity, biting off more than one can burn.
Eating too much can cause a great deal of problems. Not only by disfiguring a person, but also by affecting health. While the daily intake of food contributes to one’s wellbeing, too much intake of food can cause distress in health. Taking in more calories than the body can burn would result in the deposition of fat in the body. Overeating regularly will thus increase body weight. The continuation of gaining weight in this manner would ultimately cause one to become obese.
Obesity is a serious long-term disease leading to great discomfort and dire consequences. It is also a major cause of many preventable deaths in the world.
‘World Obesity Day’, which falls today (October 11) is a day to raise awareness and promote effective solutions to prevent the global obesity crisis. Taking the opportunity to spread awareness about the disease in Sri Lanka, the Health Capsule spoke to Doctor Deepal Perera, Consultant Pediatrician at Lady Ridgeway Hospital, who shared his knowledge on this
WHAT IS OBESITY?
Dr Perera explained that obesity is the excessive weight gained by the body causing the Body Mass Index to be higher than the accepted range. While it is definitely not a lifestyle choice made by the patient to live an obese life, they tend to make desperate efforts to alter the situation they are trapped in. Obese patients feel rather ashamed or guilty to associate themselves with food. However, it should be known that obesity is caused due to factors that are very much outside the patient’s control.
Dr Perera stated that obesity is one of the non-communicable diseases in Sri Lanka. He explained how the disease gradually captures more victims with time. He further said that obesity is one of the biggest problems of the modern world.
Obesity is usually caused by a combination of risk factors. It occurs due to inherited factors, personal diet and lack of proper exercises.
Dr Perera stressed the importance for children to play outdoors and get plenty of exercise. He explained that children these days are more likely to be seen hunched over their electric devices, wrapped up in technology, instead of playing under the sun. Addiction to technology leads to less activeness and inadequate exercise which is a leading cause of obesity.
Dr Perera also mentioned how modern day families always tend to eat out. The frequent consumption of unhealthy, fatty food like short eats is a major contribution to developing obesity. According to Dr Perera, the food patterns and lifestyle of children these days have changed immensely and not in a healthy manner.
The daily intake of rice and curry, fish and vegetables have been replaced by fast food and short eats which are quite risky to the health and cause many diseases.
Rice flour used in the early days have now been replaced by wheat flour which results in health issues such as weight gain and high blood pressure.
Dr Perera said that children tend to eat too much biscuits on a daily basis. Modern day food contain large proportions of wheat flour, oil, sugar and salt. Addiction to these types of food can be quite harmful to the health especially when proper meals are neglected for the non-simple diets. Such bad eating habits and lack of exercise cause fat deposition in the body which eventually leads to obesity.
Obesity is also encouraged by genetic influences and social factors. Genetic influences occur when obesity patients contain the genes that regulate their appetite and therefore, it is not a problem of their own making. Dr Perera also stated that most children become obese due to hormonal dysfunctions such as thyroid deficiencies and excess of steroids.
While uncontrollable weight gain is an obvious symptom for obesity, other symptoms include shortness of breath, aching of knees, high blood pressure, backaches, skin problems, depression and heartburn.
Obesity is diagnosed by conducting a physical examinations and checking the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the patient. If the BMI is higher than the usual, it is considered as obesity.
It is also important for the physician to get the health history of the patient to identify the stress levels, medications, eating patterns, physical activity and other health issues.
Complications of obesity involve life threatening diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and certain cancers.
Dr Perera mentioned that at least 100 children are diagnosed with diabetes and at least 500 cancer patients are being admitted to the cancer hospital annually.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Treatment for obesity can be done by going on healthy diets and maintaining a sound health by exercising daily. However, regarding severe cases, surgery is performed to seal off most of the stomach and reduce the stomach volume thus decreasing the quantity of food that can be consumed. This method is greatly effective and helps to lose a great deal of weight and avoid further weight gains.
There are many practical ways to prevent obesity.
Dr Perera advised to consume more vegetables and fruits and to avoid starchy, oily and sugary foods. He mentioned that one’s basic diet should contain half a plate of vegetables, quarter plate of fish with another quarter of rice. He also said that it is vital to promote exercise and physical activeness in children. Limiting children’s exposure to technology is also a huge step that can be taken in making their lives better and healthier.
Dr Perera said that shorteat shops should not be located within 200m of schools. He mentioned that in developed countries such as South Korea, it is illegal to have shorteats and fast food shops within 200m of schools. However, in Sri Lanka, these shops are even situated within the school premises thus encouraging students to frequently consume an unhealthy diet.
Daily exercise and consumption of a healthy diet helps prevent obesity.
Dr Perera’s message to all parents is to help maintain their children’s health and avoid the risk of obesity.
“Do not allow children to play only with their phones. Let them play outdoors. Avoid treating them with shorteats as they are not good for health. Promote fruits and vegetables instead”.