Obesity is a chronic disease that needs lifelong treatment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the Body Mass Index (BMI), our weight can be divided into four categories:
- Below 18.5 kg/m2 – Underweight
- Between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2 – Normal weight
- Between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 – Overweight
- Over 30 kg/m2 – Obese
The number of people worldwide with a BMI of over 30, i.e., those suffering from obesity, has almost tripled since 1975. No country is on track to meet the WHO’s 2025 targets on obesity (as defined by BMI), and obesity rates are set to continue to rise globally. New data presented in this Atlas show that, by 2030, it is predicted that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men will be living with obesity (BMI ≥30kg/m2), equating to over 1 billion people globally.
Causes of Obesity
At its very basic, obesity occurs when there is an imbalance in calorie consumption whereby we consume more calories than we burn. This is perpetuated by the fact that globally there has been a massive rise in the intake of energy-dense, processed foods containing much sugar, and the increasingly sedentary life people are leading due to the nature of their work which leaves no room for exercise.
However, the reason for a rise in weight might not always be as simple as eating more and exercising less. Multiple other factors can contribute to obesity that may not be related to diet and physical activity. Some of which are altered environments, personal situations, psycho-social factors, medications, and diseases. To many people’s surprise, trauma, iatrogenic procedures, and genetic variations also lead to obesity.
The tragedy of obesity is that the body tries to keep the weight, so weight loss attempts to fight against one’s metabolism. Furthermore, obesity does not only occur as a standalone disease. It can also lead to other serious ailments such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is also one of the core diseases associated with obesity. This is commonly referred to as disturbed sleep due to recurrent obstruction of the upper airway leading to reduced or stopped breathing. Obesity is also a side effect of a longer list of diseases, including fatty liver disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, asthma, and severe osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).
Obesity is also a severe consequence of reproductive health. For instance, if a person has polycystic ovarian syndrome (hormonal disorder leading to infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone levels among women of reproductive age), that person will most likely suffer from obesity. Several types of cancer, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon, can also have side effects of obesity.
Bariatric Surgery: A safe and undervalued solution
Diet and exercise are the obvious solutions that come to mind when shedding those extra pounds. But what can you do when you can’t seem to have any success with these? The answer to that predicament can lie in bariatric surgeries for many people. Bariatric surgeries are done by changing the digestive system to help patients lose weight. The power of bariatric surgery (in Greek baros = weight and -iatric = medical treatment) is weight loss and a reset of the metabolic system. This makes surgery the most effective treatment for obesity with excellent long-term results on maintaining weight loss and improving or curing associated diseases.
The last resort out
One of the most critical surgery issues is selecting suitable candidates. Multidisciplinary team preparation and coaching before and after surgery are also crucial. In most cases, and depending on the type, the surgery takes around 1 to 1.5 hours. Admission is on the day of surgery, and most patients are discharged the next day (one night in hospital).
There are some mainstream types of surgery that patients opt for. For instance, sleeve gastrectomy is a type of surgery that creates a tube-like stomach. Gastric bypass is another example where a small proximal pouch is separated from the stomach and reconnected to the small intestine.
Nowadays, the surgeries (and anesthesia) are very safe and performed with minimally invasive techniques. Technologies such as laparoscopy or keyhole surgery are creating significant leaps in healthcare by providing people a way out of obesity.