Definitions of Obesity for Adults and Children
Overweight and Obesity Definition
Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
Definition of Obesity for Adults
For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.
• An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
• An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
Definition for Children and Teens
For children and teens, BMI ranges above a normal weight have different labels (overweight and obese). Additionally, BMI ranges for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages.
How common is obesity?
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. One in three Americans is obese. The prevalence of obesity in children has increased markedly, with approximately 20%-25 % of children either overweight or obese. Obesity is also increasing rapidly throughout the world, and the incidence of obesity nearly doubled from 1991 to 1998.
Is your health at risk cause of obesity?
Obesity is not just a cosmetic consideration; it is a dreadful health dilemma directly harmful to your life. In the United States, roughly 300,000 deaths per year are directly related to obesity, and more than 80% of these deaths are in patients with a BMI index over 30.
For patients with a BMI over 40, life expectancy reduces seriously (as much as 20 years for men and 5 years for women). Obesity also increases the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases including:
• High Blood Pressure
• High Cholesterol
• Insulin Resistance
• Type 2 Diabetes
• Heart Attack
• Congestive Heart Failure
• Sleep apnea
What Causes Obesity?
The balance between calorie intake and energy expenditure determines a person’s weight. If a person eats more calories than he or she burns (metabolizes), the person gains weight (the body will store the excess energy as fat). If a person eats fewer calories than he or she metabolizes, he or she will lose weight. Therefore the most common causes of obesity are overeating and physical inactivity. At present, we know that there are many factors that contribute to obesity, some of which have a genetic component:
• Overeating – Overeating leads to weight gain, especially if the diet is high in fat. Foods high in fat or sugar (for example, fast food, fried food, and sweets) have high energy density (foods that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food).
• A diet high in simple carbohydrates – Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain. Some scientists believe that simple carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, desserts, soft drinks, beer, wine, etc.) contribute to weight gain because they are more rapidly absorbed into the blood-stream than complex carbohydrates (pasta, brown rice, grains, vegetables, raw fruits, etc.) and thus cause a more pronounced insulin release after meals than complex carbohydrates. This higher insulin release, some scientists believe, contributes to weight gain.
• Frequency of eating – The relationship between frequency of eating (how often you eat) and weight is somewhat controversial. There are many reports of overweight people eating less often than people with normal weight. Scientists have observed that people who eat small meals four or five times daily, have lower cholesterol levels and lower and/or more stable blood sugar levels than people who eat less frequently (two or three large meals daily). One possible explanation is that small frequent meals produce stable insulin levels, whereas large meals cause large spikes of insulin after meals and cause everything to turn to fat.
• Slow metabolism – Women have less muscle than men. Muscle burns (metabolizes) more calories than other tissue (which includes fat). As a result, women have a slower metabolism than men, and hence, have a tendency to put on more weight than men, and weight loss is more difficult for women. As we age, we tend to lose muscle and our metabolism slows; therefore, we tend to gain weight as we get older particularly if we do not watch our quality of food intake.
• Physical inactivity – Sedentary people burn fewer calories than people who are active. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that physical inactivity was strongly correlated with weight gain.
• Medications – Medications associated with weight gain include certain antidepressants, anticonvulsants, diabetes medications, certain hormones such as oral contraceptives and most corticosteroids such as Prednisone. Weight gain may also be seen with some high blood pressure medications and antihistamines.
• Genetics – Genetics also affect hormones involved in fat regulation. For example, one genetic cause of obesity is leptin deficiency. Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells, and also in the placenta. Leptin controls weight by signaling the brain to eat less when body fat stores are too high. If, for some reason the body cannot produce enough leptin, or leptin cannot signal the brain to eat less, this control is lost, and obesity occurs. The role of leptin replacement as a treatment for obesity is currently being explored. A person is more likely to develop obesity if one or both parents are obese.
• Psychological factors – For some people, emotions influence eating habits. Many people eat excessively in response to emotions such as boredom, sadness, stress or anger. While most overweight people have no more psychological disturbances than normal weight people, about 30 percent of the people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating.
• Diseases – such as hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome, are also contributors to obesity.
SOURCES: Medicine Net and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining Overweight and Obesity.
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