When it comes to reporting on obesity in the mainstream media, it seems that you only hear about its connection to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
While these claims are clearly valid and are supported by mountains of epidemiological evidence, I fear that the general public may be growing numb to this message much the same way everyone intuitively knows smoking is bad for you (even though plenty of people still continue to smoke).
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Though obesity-linked diabetes, heart disease, and cancer steal the limelight on the 6pm news, there are a number of less popular health issues with which you should also be aware.
Obesity and arthritis
The additional gravitational load of obesity may hasten joint dysfunction and promote early-onset arthritis. In a study out of Harvard University published in the American Journal of Public Health, obesity was associated with a greater number of cases of arthritis in baby boomers compared to the previous generation.
Influence of obesity on obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea may present when excess adipose tissue encroaches upon the upper respiratory tract and pharynx, which can impede affect ventilation and result in hypoxia (low blood oxygen) and possibly hypercapnia (high blood carbon dioxide levels).
Obesity and asthma
Obese individuals have a three-times greater risk of developing asthma compared to normal weight individuals. The specific mechanisms are not well understood but may be associated with inflammation of the bronchial mucosa and submucosa.
Obesity, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) tends to occur more frequently in obese individuals and may be associated with decreased mobility. Excessive and prolonged physical inactivity increase the likelihood of developing DVT much in the same way air passengers develop the condition (economy class syndrome). Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks off from a remote vein wall and travels back through the heart and then to the lungs. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association based on 112,822 women found that obesity, cigarette smoking, and hypertension were all associated with an increased risk of pulmonary embolism. Another write-up in Science Daily further underscores the relative risk of DVT in obese relative to normal weight individuals.
Obesity and gallstones
Gallstones are associated with obesity, perhaps due to higher levels of cholesterol produced in the obese state. Excess cholesterol may enhance the likelihood of the development of gallstones. In a society rife with quick-fix diets, it should also be noted that crash dieting and weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) can also hasten the development of gall stones. Slow, controlled weight loss of up to one kilogram of fat per week is advised and reduces the chance of developing gall stones.
Obesity is also linked to other insidious conditions such as depression and, in women, polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS), amenorrhea, infertility, urinary incontinence.
What can you do about it?
Despite all the miracle gimmicks, gadgets, and potions on the market, the all-encompassing “secret” solution is that there is no secret. The best available scientific evidence still holds that losing weight and keeping it off is best accomplished by making small, achievable, sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. Healthy FAT loss should be approximately 1/2 to 1 kilogram (1 to 2 lbs) per week.
Even if you don’t shed massive amounts of weight in the short-term, you must remember that every little bit counts provided you’re moving in the right direction. Long-term weight loss data from the National Weight Control Registry in the US found that individuals who lost weight and kept it off made core lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, modifying food intake, and reducing time spent in front of the television.
For most people, the above recommendations are prudent and reasonable, but in cases of extreme or morbid obesity, a medically-supervised diet or surgery may be warranted above and beyond that which can be accomplished by simple run of the mill lifestyle changes.