Obsesity kills

Thu, 12/10/2009 - 00:00
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A new enemy is emerging in the 21st century — our appetite. Gluttony has become has become a way life, instead of an exception. Today obesity is more of a life and death issue than just a matter of looking “bad.” In fact, it is fast becoming one of the world’s leading killers.

“Obesity affects people of all ages and all social groups. It is already threatening the future well-being and longevity of many youths, as well as the economic prosperity of countries,” according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO).

Around the world, more than one billion adults are overweight – and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. "Overweight" is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25, while "obesity" relates to a BMI of 30 or above. The BMI is calculated by dividing body weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters) squared. For example, a person who is 1.7 meters tall and weighs 65 kilograms would have a BMI of 22.5.

There is a misconception that obesity is common only in industrialized countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. But obesity is fast spreading across the globe. There are now more fat people in the world than hungry people, reports the International Obesity Taskforce (IOT).

In extreme cases, people who are overweight since childhood could die as much as five to 10 years early. “The developing world in particular is going to bear the enormous brunt of this weight gain,” deplored Dr. Neville Rigby, IOT policy director.

Obesity oftentimes affect only adults.But in recent years, children are not spared from this health burden. In fact, there is such thing as childhood obesity. A 2004 IOTF study showed 155 million children between the ages of five and 17 worldwide who are overweight, with 30 to 45 million of them regarded as obese. In the Philippines, 1.8 percent of boys and 0.8 percent of girls between the ages of six and ten are overweight.

“We should fight off the common mistakes of Filipinos that overweight children are ‘cute.’ It is not!” declares Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr., professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. “Healthy kids are not overweight or underweight. We should teach them proper eating habits and healthy lifestyle choices while they were young.”

“We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic,” decries Dr. John Foreyt, one of the world-renowned authorities on obesity. “We have to start in the young and develop healthy lifestyle habits, particularly in our dietary preferences, to prevent becoming obese and developing all sorts of cardiovascular problems.”

A couple of years back, a nutrition expert said the Philippines has the third “fattest population” in Asia – after Malaysia and Singapore. Currently, about 500,000 Filipinos are suffering from obesity. What is alarming is that some of these obese are still teenagers.

Although obesity is not a medical emergency, Dr. Ian Caterson urged government health officials to do something about it now -- before obesity becomes pandemic. “Obesity has a significant impact on both the health of a nation and its health bill,” said the Australian professor of nutrition during the Third Scientific Meeting on Obesity in Malaysia. “Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, fatty liver, back problems and osteoarthritis. In addition, being obese increases your risk of cancer and infertility.”

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