Obesity means an excess
fat collection in the body. There is always an optimal
weight for every age and sex. In obesity, this weight
exceeds the upper limit of normal by 30%.
Morbid obesity is a condition wherein
people are overweight by 45 kilos to what is normal
for their age and sex.
The prevalence of obesity has increased
sharply since the mid seventies especially in the
developed countries. In fact, obesity has become so
rampant that more children and teenagers are obese
nowadays than ever before. 70 % of the adult population
in the U.S.A is considered obese.
Obesity is not just a cosmetic consideration.
It is a medical condition associated with illness
and disability. It can lead to: -
* High blood pressures
* Heart diseases like coronary heart diseases (CHD)
* Diseases of gall bladder
* Sleep apnea plus other respiratory problems
* Increased risks for many cancerous conditions in
both men and women.
Causes of obesity
There are many theories explaining
what causes obesity.
Identical twins are known to have
very identical BMI even when grown apart. This favors
the concept that weight gain and obesity are controlled
However there are many instances where
environmental conditions overwhelm the action of genes
in obesity. Famines are known to prevent obesity even
in those most prone to it genetically.
A number of conditions have been identified
where obesity is a feature right from birth. In these
children, along with obesity there are other symptoms
that help differentiating these conditions from each
Race and Socio-economic
The odds of having obesity and obesity
related health conditions varied among persons depending
on their age, gender, race, income and smoking.
In the developed countries, obesity
is more prevalent among people in the lower socio-economic
strata where as, in developing countries, obesity
is a problem more seen within the higher socio-economic
* Psychotic Drugs
>> There are four major groups of drugs which
can cause obesity: Benzodiazepines, Lithium, Antidepressants,
* Sulphonyl urea agents (used in treatments of diabetes)
The increased demand for energy and the heightened
metabolic activity of the body on account of the drastic
hormonal changes, predispose pregnant women to weight
gain and obesity. Women are known to gain as much
as 12 to 16 kilos during pregnancy.
Tumors arising in the brain like craniopharyngeomas
-> which is a non-malignant tumor, most commonly
occurring in children (5-15 age group) and presenting
with obesity, lethargy, poor memory and recurrent
* Endocrine disorders
Disorders affecting the hormone producing plus secreting
glands of the body are called endocrine disorders.
* Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome
-> a condition where a woman’s sex
hormones get out of balance. There is an abnormal
increase in the production of the male hormones (androgens)
causing obesity, irregular periods, acne, hair loss
from the scalp but increased body hair etc.
* Underactive thyroid disorder
-> can cause obesity inspite of loss of
* Cushing’s syndrome ->
a disorder in which the body produces excess cortisols
resulting in obesity along with other symptoms of
fatigue, weakness, facial flushing, round (moon) face,
So how is OBESITY measured?
The most widely used calculator for
obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). This number
is a ratio of a person’s weight (in kilograms)
to his height (in meter square). BMI from 30 up to
35 indicate obesity. For adults above 35, a BMI greater
than 27 is considered obese.
According to the American Obesity
Association (AOA) BMI also indicates the potential
health risks that accompany obesity.
|18 - <25
|25 - <27
|27 - <30
|30 - <35
|35 - <40
BMI less than 19 indicates mal-nutrition,
while people with BMIs 25 up to 30 are considered
overweight for their age and sex. BMI over 40 suggests
The BMI is a very sensitive indicator
of obesity for people between the ages of 19 and 70
BMI is unsuitable in:
* Elderly people with general debility.
* Deformities of the spine like scoliosis (lateral
deviation of the backbones) or kyphosis (forward deviation
of the backbone)
* Children growing up very fast.
* Pregnant or lactating women.
* Body builders and athletes
Scientists use other, more sensitive methods to assess
* CT & MRI Scans
These are non-invasive methods which can assess the
collection of fat cells. They are very reliable and
identify the precise points of fat collection in the
* Abdomino-Gluteal Ratio/Waist Hip Ratio (WHR)
This measures the proportion of fat distribution around
the torso. These measurements have a strong correlation
with general health and fertility. It is optimal for
men to have a ratio of 0.9. A ratio of 0.7 in women
is considered very healthy. Ratios in women exceeding
0.9 and in men exceeding 1.0 imply obesity. WHR is
a better tool for assessing a person’s risk
for heart attack than the BMI.
The BMI is of limited use in certain occasions. Many
conditions render the BMI an unsuitable tool for health
assessment. As a person accumulates fat in his body,
fats are first deposited under the skin before being
deposited around internal organs. Instruments that
measure the fat deposited under the skin are called
Lesser used methods that scientists employ to study
* Densitometry -> where weight is measured under
* Water dilution methods
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The world health organization (WHO)
has categorized obesity as a metabolic disorder. Often
obese people approach their doctors when other health
conditions worsen due to obesity.
and symptoms that suggest its time to tackle obesity
* Your diabetes does not improve inspite of medications
and you are overweight. Remember that all obese persons
do not develop diabetes, but 80% of diabetics are
* You have trouble conceiving. Impotence and infertility
are conditions worsened by obesity.
* The menstrual cycles have become irregular. You
either have them too often or they seem to be diminishing
in flow and appear later than usual.
* You have lately developed high blood pressure or
your existing high pressures are not responding well
* Off-late you suffer from increased daytime sleepiness.
Chances are you may suffer from sleep apnea.
* Obesity increases chances of skin infections. Fungal
infections are common in skin folds of the abdomen,
torso and lower limbs.
* Obesity can result in many chemical changes within
the body. In some people, the Uric Acid content in
blood rises sufficiently to cause gout-> a common
condition causing joint inflammation.
* The weight bearing joints of the body -> back
bones, knees, ankles etc. can suffer from joint inflammation
(osteoarthritis). Pains in the back and knee are common
complaints associated with obesity.
* Young Children who are obese are more prone to joint
problems, especially of the knee joints and lower
* Obesity can cause hemodynamic changes that resulting
in stasis of blood flow especially in the lower limbs
which lead to varicose veins.
Treatment of Obesity:
Optimal treatment plans for obese
people consist of the following:
Changing diet and behavior.
Introducing Exercise, Drugs and surgery (last option)
Dietary + Life style changes
Excess calories consumed end-up being
stored as fat. A good diet plan must have foods high
in nutritive value and low in empty calories.
Give up the idea of starving yourself.
Crash diets rarely remedy the situation. You are likely
to quit the regimen very soon either out of frustration
or from progressive weakness.
Instead, try to eat more of the right
kind of foods. The realistic approach is to achieve
a ‘healthier weight’ and not what is touted
as the ‘ideal weight’.
* Don’t avoid carbohydrates ->
have less of simple carbohydrates (sugars) and consume
more of complex carbohydrates. Most naturally occurring
complex carbohydrates also provide sufficient vitamins
and minerals for energy production. Wheatgerm, bran,
oats, cornmeal, maize, buckwheat and barley are all
excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.
These foods are best consumed as they are that is
– in their natural states.
* Complex carbohydrates -> minimum
60% of your daily calories must come from carbohydrates.
If you are uncomfortable using complex carbohydrates
routinely, there are plenty of choices you may opt
* pasta and its varieties
* whole grain cereals
* shredded wheat
* porridge oats
* oat cakes
* brown rice
* brown bread
* pitta bread
* Avoid food fads which promise dramatic weight lose
in little time. Rapid weight loses generally mean
you are losing a lot of proteins and body fluids.
This eventually depletes your body’s muscle
mass and leading to exhaustion. The ideal diet will
enable the body to burn fat while conserving muscle
* Add more high fiber foods. Vegetables, fruits, beans
and whole grains are high in fibers which prevent
excess absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines.
Have plenty of red, yellow and orange fruits which
are high in antioxidants.
* Avoid having animal fats. These are high in saturated
fats which lead to conditions like high blood pressures
and diabetes. Animal fats are very rich in cholesterols
which can cause heart diseases along with obesity.
* Drink plenty of water. Recent studies have shown
that simply having more water can increase your metabolic
rates thus help in burning more calories in the form
* Maintain a balance between caloric intake and energy
expenditure. It is true that obese people consume
more calories than they require and burn lesser calories.
So an ideal balance needs to be maintained.
* Start being more active.
* Walk more, use the car less often.
* Avoid using the car for short distances -> try
cycling or walking instead.
* Climb stairs instead of always using the elevators.
* Pursue active recreational sports when home rather
than watching television or surfing the net.
Increase your fitness levels by including activities
that you enjoy. It takes about 3,500 excess calories
to gain just 0.5kg (1lb). Few people gain more than
2lb to 5lb each year. Weight fluctuates from day to
day, but you should aim to stay about the same weight
from week to week.
* Have moderate sizing when at the restaurant. Try
having starters instead of heavy desserts. Restaurants
generally provide very large servings, try to split
your dish with a friend and do not order for anything
offered super sized.
? Eat a variety of foods. Try and get your vitamin
and mineral nutrients from food and not through supplements.
? Have adequate amounts of calcium. Calcium is essential
for strong bones and teeth.
Anti-obesity medications are prescribed
mostly only to persons who suffer from morbid obesity.
The most commonly used drugs are:
90 These drugs act by suppressing the appeties, increasing
the body metabolism and preventing the absorption
of fats from the digestive system.
Performed only where all other methods
to lose weight fail. The procedures done commonly,
aim to reduce the stomach size and bypass the stomach
by connecting the food pipe to the small intestine.
Common procedures include gastric
bypass, vertical banding and gastroplasty.
Homeopathic Treatment for
Homeopathic approach to the treatment
of Obesity entails treating the treatable cause, if
possible. For example, if obesity is due to hormonal
disorders such as Hypothyroidism, it calls for the
treatment for the same. Besides the treatment, disciplines
diet habit and exercise schedule form important part
of the treatment. It may be noted that there are no
standard medicines in homeopathy which can reduce