Obesity is on the rise globally and efforts to address it are challenging due to misconceptions about obesity itself as well as how it impacts our health.
What exactly is obesity?
Obesity is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health’ as well as having a ‘BMI over 30’.
800-million people around the world are currently living with obesity, according to WorldObesityDay.org. The WHO says that in 2020, 39-million children under the age of five were overweight or obese and that 340-million children and adolescents aged five to 19 were overweight or obese.
Obesity and its impact on health
The WHO says that being overweight and obesity are major risk factors for several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death worldwide. Being overweight can also lead to diabetes and its associated conditions, including blindness, limb amputations and the need for dialysis.
Carrying excess weight can lead to musculoskeletal disorders including osteoarthritis. Obesity is also associated with some cancers, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney and colon cancer.
We also know that obesity is a risk factor for complications of Covid-19 (which South Africans are still getting, albeit the numbers are much lower – around 200 new cases daily on average for 2023).
Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of related illnesses.
But is obesity really a global problem?
The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with over four-million people dying each year because of being overweight or obese, according to the WHO.
The medical consequences of obesity will cost over $1 trillion by 2025, according to WorldObesityDay.org.
World Obesity Day is on 4 March. For more educational information about obesity, click here. If you are concerned about your weight and health and would like to make a change, contact your local medical doctor for expert advice.