It's a heavyweight problem

It's a heavyweight problem


Global obesity: a growing epidemic

Obesity is one of the most serious problems of present times. Between 1980 and 2008 the number of obese people almost doubled.

In the early 20th century cases of obesity were still a rarity. Yet by 1997 the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognized obesity as a global epidemic.

The problem of obesity does not apply to just the developed countries any more, it affects all age groups of all socio-economic backgrounds.

According to WHO estimates, in 2008 over 1.4 billion people were overweight, and over 500 million were obese. In 2011 in Europe 20.4% men and 23.1% women aged 20 were obese.

Unfortunately, obesity does not affect only adults. In 2010 nearly 43 million children below the age of 5 has serious body weight problems, and consequently – were more prone than children with proper body weight to suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular disorders even at an early age.

As the direct or indirect cause of numerous health problems, obesity poses an enormous burden for the public health care systems as well.

Recent studies show that obesity now kills more people worldwide than car crashes, terror attacks, and Alzheimer's combined.

Besides reducing the body weight itself, treatment of obesity also minimizes numerous risks and generally improves one's health, both physical and psychological.

Yet obesity, despite its many inherent dangers, is still perceived primarily as an esthetical defect, and not as a chronic illness requiring treatment.

What causes obesity and overweight?

Inspiring advancement of our civilization has also an unfortunate downside – its effect on our health.

A sedentary lifestyle, little physical activity, universal access to food, plentiful meals as well as excessive intake of fats, white flour, sugar and salt are the root of the constantly deteriorating physical condition of communities all over the world.

The main cause of obesity is a disorder of energy balance brought about by the surplus of consumed energy in relation to the degree of its spending.

A vast majority of all food available today is, for economic reasons, produced rather than grown or farmed. It contains a whole gamut of "enhancements", including preservatives, artificial colouring and flavouring ingredients, as well as product shelf life extenders.

Consequently, human body must now additionally cope with all these chemical additives, many of which contribute to the development of food allergies.

Do prescription drugs work?

These days, we are bombarded with advertisements of liver disease medications, unconventional slimming methods and dietary supplements, which will "restrict absorption of fats, or carbohydrates, or calories" or let you "evade the negative effects" of having a dinner consisting of a fatty meal and a chunk of cream cake.

Yet there is no proof substantiating the use of such drugs, and their only beneficiaries are the manufacturers and media, cashing in on the ads.

Only a handful of countries have information campaigns promoting healthy nutrition and advantages resulting from increased physical activity. Even less dared to implement bans on commercials, advertising unhealthy food and beverages and directed primarily at children.

Can my family doctor help me lose weight, then?

Despite the fact that in developed countries as much as 50% of adults make attempts to reduce their body weight, nearly 70% fail to achieve their target, and one fifth, after some time, even reverts to their starting point.

Research conducted on a group of family doctor patients showed that 97% of people who were obese (BMI ≥ 30) and 84% of people who were overweight (BMI 25-30) considered reducing their body weight. However, only 49% of the obese and 24% of the overweight raised this subject during their medical consultation, and the advice that the patients most often sought from their doctors concerned: 

  1. proper diet
  2. help in drawing up a realistic weight reduction programme, and
  3. recommendations regarding physical activity

According to the recommendations published in The European Journal of Obesity, doctors and specialists should recommend to their patients therapies based on demonstrable evidence and proven with respect to their safety and efficiency.


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