Author: Nicole Jones
It comes as no shock that the health effects of being overweight or obese are widespread on an individual and global level. Evidence shows a heavy correlation between a high BMI and a plethora of diseases and illnesses. This can include, but isn’t limited to, ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, hypertensive heart disease, and diabetes mellitus (NEJM, 2017). A lot of these diseases and illness are due to the strain extra weight puts on the heart. While the risk of heart disease and heart related illnesses is pretty common knowledge, there are many other disease and illness risks to being overweight. The physical extra weight can have a toll on the joints, leading to mobility issues. An increase risk in breast cancer, particularly among women, has also been a sited as a potential risk factor associated with obesity (NEJM, 2017). Not only is obesity potentially harmful for the individual, it can also be harmful for the wider population. With the associated health risks of obesity, comes an associated cost for those risks. Since obesity is a global issue, it is a burden to health care systems around the world. In 73 countries across the globe, the obesity rate has around doubled since the 1980s (NEJM, 2017). This has caused the overall cost of health care expenditures for many preventable diseases to also increase. With the many risks associated with obesity, as well as the burden it puts on the healthcare system, there are many reasons and benefits to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
The most effective way to combat the health risks associated obesity is to lose weight. According to the 2012 study by Dixon et al. titled “Sustained Weight Loss in Obese Subjects Has Benefits That Are Independent of Attained Weight”, besides a lower risk level for the diseases mentioned previously, subjects also had metabolic changes after weight loss. These metabolic changes included lower fasting plasma glucose levels, less lipid abnormalities associated with obesity, lower fasting triglycerides, among more metabolic changes. Besides the benefits in metabolic changes, there were also changes due to losing weight that were more physically notable. After losing weight, subjects had self-report better physical function, greater energy, and better mental health, including scoring lower on the Beck Depression Inventory (Dixon, 2012). With weight affecting one’s mobility, weight loss can help regain the physical function a person has. With more physical function comes more enjoyment of life. While this cannot be scientifically proven, conclusions can be drawn between better health outcomes from losing weight and a more fulfilled life.
While it is quite undisputed that there are risks to being overweight or obese and both physiological and psychology benefits to maintaining a healthy weight, there are many different ways to go about losing excess weight. A 2012 study by Nicklas et al. titled “Successful Weight Loss Among Obese U.S. Adults”, subjects used a variety of methods to lose weight. Some of these methods included eating less, exercising more, eating less fat, switching to less calorically dense foods, as well as “fad diets” which including weight loss programs and liquid diets. Fad diets are usually quite popular and help people to lose weight quickly but are very hard to maintain long term. These fade diets, weight loss programs and liquid diets, did not show any significant correlation with successful weight loss. The most successful weight loss methods for people who are obese included exercising more, using prescription weight loss medications, reducing food groups, such as fats and carbohydrates, and eating healthier, such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks (Nicklas, 2012). For many, using a combination of methods can promote weight loss without becoming redundant and tiring.
While many have aspirations to lose weight, maintaining weight loss is another struggle in battling obesity. On a very basic level, weight loss is hard to maintain because it has to be kept up with every day. It is hard to stick to a set limit of calories and keep up a workout regimen in everyday life. The body physiologically rewards you for foods high in fat and calorie dense foods by releasing dopamine. This is part of what drives the desire to eat unhealthy foods, when it is obvious that healthy foods are a better choice for the body in the long run. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to falling into the trap of regaining weight after weight loss. The main way to maintain a healthy weight is to create an environment that favors healthy behaviors over unhealthy behaviors (Greenway, 2015). This of course is easier said than done. If an individual is not able to beat the physiological drive to eat unhealthy foods, bariatric surgery is an option to alter the physiology of the body, instead of trying to change behaviors (Greenway, 2015). While obesity is now starting to be considered a disease within itself, there is still a long way to go as a society, and within the medical field, in order to combat and control obesity.
Collaborators, The GBD 2015 Obesity, et al. “Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195Countries over 25 Years: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 6 July 2017, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1614362.
Dixon, John B., et al. “Sustained Weight Loss in Obese Subjects Has Benefits That AreIndependent of Attained Weight.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 6 Sept. 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2004.235.
Greenway, F L. “Physiological Adaptations to Weight Loss and Factors Favouring WeightRegain.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 21 Apr. 2015,www.nature.com/articles/ijo201559.
Nicklas, Jacinda M., et al. “Successful Weight Loss Among Obese U.S. Adults.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Elsevier, 16 Apr. 2012,www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379712000281?casa_token=lXw9RZt9dG4AAAAA%3AZPkkiVN3FlqFl0_ma7N4xJMLsH4nAKGBDaeIDP4HCVOTCBVJu5KMtmgWK9PpjLAPu-4CTV0t9g.