The recent studies and statistics show that obesity has become an extremely serious and widespread problem nowadays as the number of individuals who become affected by it has considerately increased. The majority of medical centers and studies define obesity as a particular medical condition that is also characterized as an abnormal and definitely excessive fat accumulation that can become a serious risk for health and result in numerous health problems. Obesity treatment is one of the most important tasks in modern society, and diet and exercise are believed to be better solutions to obesity as compared with a surgery.
Obesity and overweight are two notions that are rather close in meaning; the difference can be seen with the help of the BMI or simply body mass index as this is a particular measure to determine whether an individual suffers from obesity or overweight.
Childhood overweight is determined by a measure called body mass index. It is calculated using a child's weight and height. Using information about weight and height, BMI to a certain extent indicates children and teens' body fatness. The most important criteria for determination of a child's weight status are age and sex.
There are many reasons for obesity; however, the main problem is usually connected with nutrition and lifestyle an individual has.
The grave results of children's overweight and obesity have been long underrated unlike the risk of this issue for adults. Researchers are gradually getting aware of the consequences of obesity for adolescents, though work in this area is getting urgent. This new epidemic has brought up the question what set of health risks children face if they are similar to those of adults. A lot of health issues considered applicable mostly to adults are now frequently diagnosed in children. Weight problems in childhood may cause certain health conditions later in adulthood. Also, children are more likely to face a set of health problems related to overweight because of the growth and development of their bodies.
Among the abovementioned problems are cardiovascular diseases, disorders of the metabolic system and other body systems.
In the cardiovascular system, the heart pumps blood, which is carried back and forth between the heart and the body by blood vessels. The heart muscle is also vulnerable to processes that thicken it and diminish its function. The critical risk factors for heart attack or stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and cigarette smoking are well-known.
For a long time heart diseases in children were considered as only birth defects. Recently it got possible to examine children's hearts and blood vessels, and certain disease processes appeared to be able to start since childhood.
Researches have shown that comparing to the past decades, nowadays children and adolescents face the problem of high blood pressure more frequently. This increase in blood pressure was caused by the increase in weight. Supplying the blood to the body muscles, the heart must develop as quickly as the muscles. Therefore, increased thickness of the heart's main pumping chamber may be another essential pathway of increasing the potential risk of cardiovascular diseases in children.
The metabolic system defines how the energy is stored and used by the body. It consists of the gastrointestinal tract, the liver and a variety of hormonal systems. Each component of this complex system can more or less compensate incorrect work of another, though this might increase the risks of health issues.
Among the obesity-related metabolic disorders are dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. They were long considered applicable for adults only. But in the past years, type 2 diabetes appears in children as well. Insulin resistance, the precise mechanism for which is still unknown, occurs frequently because of the obesity.
The lungs and associated blood vessels make the pulmonary system. The blood goes through the right side of the heart, pulmonary arteries and small capillaries of the lungs. Asthma in children has increased in past two decades; it is generally considered as an allergic reaction, but might involve environmental and genetic factors as well. Studies have shown that loss of weight positively affects the pulmonary function, though they have been done only in adults.
Obese children and adolescents tend to have few friends, while the quality of life may appear the central issue for them. Research results say that the health-related quality of life of overweight children and adolescents was comparable to that of children with cancer. Obstructive sleep apnea and the daytime sleepiness were the central disadvantages.
Acne and excessive hair growth can partially be caused by obesity and partially by GI issues. Polycystic ovary syndrome as a complication of obesity puts overweight females at risk for infertility.
Another negative consequence of obesity is headache, vomiting or blurred vision. These symptoms may be difficult to treat and may require an active weight-loss therapy. The issue is common in adults.
Obese people do not live as long as other people. Life insurance company studies done early in the 20th century showed that as the weight of individuals increases above an optimal level, the probability of dying increases, too. In 1979, the American Cancer Society confirmed that findings in a 12-year study of 750,000 people took into consideration their state of health and whether they smoked.
Obese men and women were also more likely to die of cancer than were those who were not obese.
Obesity might well be the result of an individual's personal preferences and of how easy it is to practice these preferences in his or her environment. That's why the treatment of obesity may differ from person to person.
In the same way, a person's metabolic phenotype may depend on both genetic and non-genetic factors for its expression. For example, recent evidence suggests that African American women burn slightly fewer kcals when sitting still than white women do, so that more kcals are available for storage.
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It is a useful theory in that it helps researchers focus on the possibility that in some individuals energy intake and expenditure might be highly regulated, while in others poorly so. Recent evidence using the doubly-labeled water technique confirms that total energy expenditure rises with increases in body weight and falls with decreases in body weight.
It is not possible to identify a priori a set point for any one individual. If this could be done, we might be much better able to accurately predict during childhood which of us were destined to become obese! However, the concept of a set point has little usefulness regarding children, since constant change due to growth and development is taking place.
Let's now examine some of the behavioral and metabolic factors that might explain how obesity develops and discuss some of the evidence indicating that some of these may be at least partially determined by our genes.
Many factors in the environment influence human eating behavior. Eating is both a spontaneous and a learned behavior. From the moment a child is born, he or she learns that crying is likely to result in a full stomach. In fact, early infancy is referred to as the oral stage of development. As children grow, they learn to prefer some foods to others. This might happen because of the types of food that their parents offer them, which, in turn, might depend on the parents' food preferences. As a matter of fact, not only dietary habits, but also total calorie and nutrient intake have been shown to “cluster” in some families. In one study (National Obesity Forum, 2006) children having one parent who habitually ate foods with high total fat content were twice as likely to eat similar foods, than were children whose parents had low total fat intakes. But when both parents consumed high fat foods, the probability of their children having high fat intakes was 3 to 6 times greater than in children whose parents had normal intakes (National Obesity Forum, 2005).
What and how much people eat can be a major characteristic of a particular culture or group. For example, the French and the Germans usually eat their heavy meal in the middle of the day and a lighter one at night, while we, Americans, tend to have our biggest meal at suppertime. In developing countries, the percentage of obese people increases as income rises, and obesity may be regarded as a sign of economic and social prosperity. Almost everywhere, good food and plenty of it is the rule at weddings and funerals, where eating is a sign of our love, respect, and concern for others.
Moreover, the structure of the family can also cause obesity in some way. Grandparents often pay attention to their grandchildren by providing calorie-dense foods. When parents are separated or divorced, children may live in two households; often, the efforts of one family to foster good eating habits in a child are undermined by the other family.
Many families eat outside the home regularly. A parent who holds two and sometimes three jobs may have little time to plan and consistently prepare high-quality, nourishing foods for the family, and turns to the most convenient sources possible— the fast-food outlets, which generally sell obesity-promoting, high-fat foods.
A person's self-image and beliefs may dramatically influence eating behavior. Adolescent and young adult women, for example, may become so preoccupied with their body images that they avoid food altogether (anorexia), or force regurgitation of it after eating (bulimia). On the other hand, overweight African American women may consider themselves attractive.
The characteristics of certain foods may also influence a person's choices. Basic taste preferences, such as those for sweetness, sourness and bitterness vary greatly among people and may be genetically determined. Much more research is necessary before taste preferences can be associated with food preferences.
Do Exercise Behaviors Explain Obesity?
Environmental influences have profound effects on people's exercise behavior. The nature of work performed by Americans has undergone dramatic changes in this century. An explosion of labor-saving technologies has led to a decrease in physical activity and to an increase in sedentary work habits.
Like food preferences, many exercise habits are formed in childhood. Young children who see their parents engaging in physical labor or regular exercise programs are likely to follow their examples. A 1991 study found that when both parents of children were physically active, the children were 6 times more likely to be active than if both parents were inactive.
Some children, especially those in low-income families, have less opportunity for a physical activity than what would be considered normal. Children who live in unsafe neighborhoods, for example, may not be able to play outside after they come home from school.
As children get older, they become much less likely to engage in regular and vigorous exercise for reasons including increased academic, work, and social commitments or school situations such as lack of physical education classes due to insufficient funds or substitution of nonphysical activities (for example, classroom or study hall sessions) for physical ones. Schools also may place greater emphasis on academic achievement than on physical activity or fitness and may delegate responsibility for physical development to families. But some parents may not realize the importance of physical exercise to their children's well-being as well as to their own. Moreover, “effective long-term weight loss depends on permanent changes in dietary quality, energy intake, and activity. Neither the medical management nor the societal preventive challenges are currently being met”.
Social and community perspectives are of value in understanding any disorder. But when clinical measures are limited, as with obesity, such perspectives can be particularly useful. The precedents are many and of long-standing. In 1854, for example, when cholera was overwhelming the clinical efforts of London's physicians, John Snow traced its origins to the social group at risk—users of the Broad Street pump. When he removed the pump handle, he did more than stop an epidemic, he established a model of public health practice.23 Since then the details have changed but not the principles.
Changes in public health practice since the days of John Snow reflect the changes in the burden of illness. The conquest of cholera and the other infectious diseases has left as our greatest burden the chronic and degenerative diseases, with their very different demands. In the era of infectious disease, the major public health efforts were exerted by the experts and little was demanded of the population other than its passive participation—in allowing swamps to be drained and sewers to be built. At most, it required visiting the doctor's office for immunizations.
Such active participation is needed because obesity is so largely a result of the way we live, of our life styles and personal habits. Controlling obesity may well require major changes in those life styles and personal habits. Such an undertaking is clearly an ambitious endeavor.
Fortunately, recent research has provided preliminary answers. It has uncovered differences in the prevalence of obesity that suggest special vulnerabilities of some populations and special resistances of others. These differences help to identify points of therapeutic leverage in community efforts to control obesity.
Many studies are now devoted to the treatment of obesity and its reduction and after the analysis of all the resources necessary for this research paper, I came to a conclusion that diet and exercise are better solutions to obesity than having a surgery, because they are safer, more effective and suitable for most obesity conditions.
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