The American Medical Association declared obesity a disease in 2013. In the United States alone, 69% of adults are overweight and 35% are obese. Annual health costs related to obesity in the U.S. is nearly $200 billion! Obesity may be something that you or a loved one is struggling with. It is critical for all of us to be educated on the negative and often times lethal consequences obesity can have on the body.
Let’s begin with a review of the different body systems and the impact that obesity has on each of them:
Fat is metabolic in nature. This means that fat burns energy and needs an energy supply just like your muscles. When you have excess fat, your body needs to increase its’ blood volume to supply that fat with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive. However, increased blood volume places increased strain on the heart. The heart now has to work harder to pump that extra blood volume to tissues throughout the body. In addition, arteries become thickened and stiffer which sets the stage for hypertension and increases the risk for blood vessel rupture.
Excess fat tissue in the chest cavity compresses the lungs making it more difficult to breathe. In addition, adipose tissue in the midsection increases intra-abdominal pressure which reduces lung volume and limits the diaphragms ability to draw down on inhalation and creates a negative pressure which allows your lungs to fill with oxygen.
In states of obesity, the risk for skin breakdown is dramatically increased. Folds in the skin create a warm and moist environment. This often times leads to skin break down and the formation of yeast.
A national survey found that the risk of knee osteoarthritis increases 4 times for obese women and 5 times for obese men. There is also an increased prevalence of low back pain. This is due to the additional stress of supporting extra weight that is placed on the low back as well as compensations needed to perform everyday activities.
A 2010 systematic review found that obese persons had a 55% increased risk of developing depression over time, whereas depressed persons had a 58% increased risk of becoming obese.
Obesity not only negatively impacts several body systems, it dramatically alters the normal function of the body at the cellular level.
Fat is the largest endocrine organ in the body and is responsible for releasing over 50 cell signaling proteins that play a critical role in immunity and metabolism. In individuals of healthy weight, fat cells release molecules that regulate
systemic metabolism blood pressure inflammation blood coagulation postmenopausal estrogen release.
In people who are obese, fat cells release adipokines that cause
inflammation compromise immunity promotes cancer**decrease insulin sensitivity potentially increase neuropathic pain
**In states of obesity, the fat causes constant low-grade inflammation which creates a rich microenvironment for tumor development. Several types of cancers including uterine, postmenopausal breast, and prostate cancer have been directly linked to a high BMI.
The epidemic crisis in America is pervasive and affects everyone. Since 1980, the rate of obesity in children/adolescents has almost tripled. It is essential to understand the ramifications of this epidemic and in my next blog I will explore creative ways to combat this epidemic.