Attaining and maintaining our ideal body weight is not simply a case of “the body beautiful” adage.
In a world of burgeoning obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy dietary patterns and the associated co-morbidities, it is becoming ever more prudent that we seek out ways to give ourselves the upper hand and seek out every supportive advantage. It's important for parents, ourselves and our children.
It is believed that current statistics indicate more than 2 billion adults worldwide are considered overweight and 575 million of them are obese, with the World Obesity Federation & World Health Organization, estimating a rise to 2.7 billion and 818 million respectively, by 2025 (1).
The body is a miraculous balance of events, which also means when one aspect is out of kilt, it can impact another and so on.
Even though the basic formula to losing weight is the simple maths of caloric expenditure (calorie burn) needing to be greater than caloric intake (calorie consume), there is still a clear issue of weight problems around the world. That’s because this dynamic equilibrium is a little more intricate, influenced by lifestyle & genetics, nutritional intake, reward cravings and satiation, metabolism, stress response capabilities and hormones (2). The impact of obesity goes beyond our own appearance, triggering health risks such as diabetes, gallstones, hypertension, heart disease, colon cancer and stroke. These risks increase with the degree of overweight (3).
It is imperative to not be disheartened at the time rate of achieved weight loss, as we must remember how long it took to put on the weight and then realize that it takes even longer to lose that same weight as we have now compromised our bodies’ efficiency. However, the right support in any context can help tip the scales in your favour, both mentally and physically, because even the seemingly most minimal weight loss still puts you on the right path, alters your body mass index (BMI) to a degree and ultimately benefits you. To put this into perspective, every kilogram lost by an adult of 160cm height (5’3) lowers their BMI by 0.39, for a 170cm (5’7) adult it impacts the BMI by 0.35 and for a 180cm (5’11) by 0.31 units (3).
Knowledge, understanding and even realism in itself can still provide additional tools towards your goal, and to bring that seemingly unattainable target that much closer.
Surprisingly, it is not only those considered obese with BMIs of over 30kg/m2 who are at risk, as the risk of developing chronic diseases is evident even among adults in the upper half of the healthy weight range (ie, BMI of 22.0-24.9), suggesting that adults should try to maintain an even more modest BMI of 18.5 to 21.9 to minimize their risk of disease (3). Weight itself is not a standalone issue, as a perceived ideal can mask genetic predisposition, fitness and nutrition amongst other factors.
Several studies point to an increased likelihood of lower sperm quality and possible erectile dysfunction among overweight men, and the subsequent higher risk for reduced fertility where the male partner is obese (4).
Obesity can affect hormonal profiles, reducing inhibin B (which controls follicle stimulating hormone) and androgen levels, and resulting in elevated oestrogen levels. It can also cause an increase in scrotal temperatures, culminating in decreased total sperm count, concentration and motility and an increased DNA fragmentation index (5).
In women, the altered level of hormones associated with obesity can influence ovulation with the likelihood of conception related to the body mass index (6). Greater body mass index at age 18 was a predictor of ovulatory infertility (7). Results support the clinical recommendation of advising overweight and/or obese women to lose weight prior to assisted reproductive technology for optimal advantage (8).
30% of cancers in developed countries can be attributed to diet related factors, with obesity increasing the risk of cancers in the oesophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium, and kidney. Alcohol influences cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, and breast (9).
Being overweight as an adult is associated with considerable increases in early mortality and decreases in life expectancy (10). Adult obesity is an influential predictor of death at older ages, and with such an increase in its prevalence, greater awareness and addressing of the issue needs to take effect.