Obesity is a global problem and is commonly termed a silent killer. The disease is associated with excess body fat and causes a host of ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, dyslipidemia, depression, non-alcoholic fatty liver, atherosclerosis, reproductive diseases, chronic kidney diseases, reduced life expectancy, and cancer in its fold.
A study this year by the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI), released by the Ministry Of Health and Family Welfare revealed that around 56 per cent of the population of Chandigarh (45 years and more) and 49 per cent of older adults in Punjab are either obese or overweight.
To raise awareness about obesity and its related conditions, Anti-Obesity Day was observed on November 26, and the theme for this year is ‘Everybody Needs to Act’.
Dr Vikas Bhutani, Director Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Mohali said that according to a recent World Bank research, obesity rates have gone up since 1975. It has always been an issue in developed countries, such as the US, the UK, and Australia, and it was projected that there is a direct association between obesity and increased caloric intake, predominantly seen in the richer parts of the world. However, developing nations such as Latin America, Africa and South Asia too have seen dramatic growth in obesity over the years and the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS 5) results show that obesity is an emerging health crisis in India.
In terms of gender, obesity has increased by 4 per cent in both men and women in India during the last five years. In NFHS 5, the percentage of overweight or obese women is 24, up from 20.6 per cent in NFHS-4 (2015-16). The prevalence in men increased to 22.9 per cent (NFHS 5) from 18.9 per cent (NFHS 4). India, said Dr Bhutani, has always focused on malnutrition and that was the right approach a decade ago. But now with an increase in obesity, the country also needs to focus more on obesity-related malnutrition. India is now at a stage of development where it must tackle the nutrition imbalance, the main reason for obesity.
According to Dr Bhutani, a significant proportion of the population suffers from a lack of food and on the other hand, many people are eating food beyond the requirement. All large government interventions and schemes have largely focused on undernutrition. It is now time we add obesity prevention and treatment to our goal to fight overall nutrition-related disorders and prevent their alarming rise in our country. “Causes like sedentary lifestyle, heredity, faulty food habits, poor nutrition control, and side-effect of certain medications are likely to contribute to obesity. Obesity increases one’s risk of developing chronic conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancers, and arthritis. Other than posing a threat of chronic illnesses, obesity also takes a toll on one’s mental health.
Dr Amit Garg, Bariatric and Advanced Laparoscopic Surgeon, Fortis Hospital Mohali said that if one’s food intake is excessive and physical activity is negligible, surplus food is stored in the body, thereby leading to weight gain.
“A condition known as morbid obesity occurs when an Indian’s BMI is 37.5 kg/m2 or an Indian with diabetes has a BMI of 32.5 kg/m2. In such a scenario, a restricted diet doesn’t yield many results in achieving long-term outcomes, and diabetes is not satisfactorily resolved. Bariatric surgery is the only option left if all other measures have failed,” he said.
Stating that bariatric surgery is the most effective surgical treatment for obesity nowadays, Dr Garg, said, “The surgery helps in long-term loss of excess weight in a sustained manner, the remission of co-morbidities and an increase in hope and quality of life. In addition to helping people lose weight and get close to their optimal body weight, bariatric surgery also cures various degrees of ailments such as type-2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, sleep apnea, and PCOS.”
Prof JS Thakur, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGI, said that a recent study indicates that 63 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women in Chandigarh lead a sedentary lifestyle, a major cause of obesity, along with a wrong diet.
Dr Parvinder Chawla, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, said the avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle can prove to be the lowest-hanging fruit and a game-changer when it comes to improving the overall health of any community. Sedentary activities include things like continuously sitting and watching TV, reading a book, using a computer, or playing video games. These include sitting for prolonged periods at a stretch. “We need to develop the habit of taking frequent breaks while doing these activities, in addition to our daily ‘step count’. In fact in Australia, it is recommended that even infants and children less than 5 years of age should not be bound to a stroller, car seat or a high chair for more than one hour at a stretch”.