Obesity is the number one most dangerous health issue that leads to other chronic diseases and death. However, is governments actively fight with drugs, tobacco and alcohol consume to prevent cancer, AIDS and mental disabilities arising from these dependencies, there are very very few effective initiatives against refined foods and lack of movement. Besides, most people don’t have an idea, of how dangerous this could be. According to Medical News Today, in obese people the average medical costs are $1,429 more than in those of a normal weight.
In this article we are going to consider obesity in detail, find out surprising facts about dangerous eating and lifestyle habits. Besides, we are going to give impressive statistics, analyze obesity rates in most obese countries – such as the USA and China and compare them to the less obese developed country Japan.
What is obesity?
To put is simply, obesity means having too much body fat accumulated, and this fat might have a negative impact on the health state.
Why do we need fat?
Adipose tissue (widely known as ‘body fat’) is vital for survival of human beings and other creatures when there is lack of food and energy sources. Normal amount of fat is necessary for maintaining body temperature, keeping internal organs in place, protecting from injuries, producing hormones. When placed right and in proper amounts fat makes people attractive and healthy and improves longevity. In women healthy percentage of body fat is required for fertility: this is the reason why in underweight women with anorexia these processes stop. The nature is extremely smart: it ‘freezes’ the reproductive mechanisms in severe cases to save the organism as it is a signal that there is not enough food available around to feed the newborn and its mother.
How people accumulate excess fat?
1 gram of body fat can store 8,5 calories used for survival in case of hunger. But it means, each excess kilo (or two lbs.) of fat stores 8500 unburnt calories. Depending to individual metabolic characteristics, it requires a different number of hamburgers, chocolate bars or ice-creams for people to get this amount of unnecessary fat hanging on their bodies. In a situation of extreme availability of food everywhere, excess fat deposits may lead to dangerous consequences. The general formula of gaining weight is common for everyone:
If you eat more calories than you spend – these calories transform into body fat.
Remember if a bodyweight is at least 20% higher than normal, the person is considered obese.
How to lose excess weight?
There are no better ways for weight control than eating healthy foods in rational amounts and move more throughout the day or regularly exercise. However, even these simple tips can be considered very differently. To lose weight and stay healthy your diet should not only have some calorie deficit and consist of healthy products, but also should be versatile and have enough micro- and macroelements for normal body functioning. By eating only 1200 calories provided by cucumbers and chicken breasts daily you may lose weight, but not in a healthy way.
Another factor to pay attention to is food glycemic index (GI). It may vary from 1 to 100 and the higher it is, the faster this product transforms into blood glucose, i.e. stimulates excess insulin production. The examples of products with high GI include refined sugars, wheat flour, white bread etc. The examples of low GI foods are meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, soy, most fruits, wholegrain cereals, unsweetened dairy products etc. So, you see, there is another aspect, why some foods are considered healthier than other.
Besides, most people tend to underestimate the amount of food they consume and overestimate the amount of physical efforts they take to lose weight. Not to get misled by this wrong perception, it is important to use calorie calculators, at least at the beginning of your fat-burning plan.
What is a healthy body mass?
In most countries obesity is primarily diagnosed with the help of Body Mass Index (BMI) – an objective statistical formula that includes your height and weight. It doesn’t measure the exact percentage of body fat but gives an idea of normal body weight in people of similar biometrics. Here is what BMI formula looks like:
Divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in meters (m). And then divide the resulting number by your height again. Or:
Metric BMI Formula
BMI = weight (kg) ÷ height2 (m2)
Imperial BMI Formula
BMI = weight (lb.) ÷ height2 (in2) × 703
If you score is lower than 25 – you have no excess weight. Results between 25 and 29.9 show the person might be overweight, while BMI over 30 is a sign of obesity. Obesity can be further split into 3 classes:
- BMI 30-34 – class 1 obesity;
- BMI 35-39 – class 2 obesity;
In case your BMI is less than 18, you are likely to be underweight. Although being a simple and widely used instrument for obesity diagnostics, this formula doesn’t consider the muscles-to-fat ratio. Therefore, a professional bodybuilding athlete with 7% of body fat may have BMI 28, while a completely unfit person with 27% of body fat may have BMI 24.
What nations are most obese?
The World Health Organization calls obesity one of the most widespread world problems. According to 2017 report, around 5% of children (107 million) and 12% of adults (603 million) in the world are diagnosed with obesity.
The United States of America and China take leading places in the rating of Top 10 Most Obese Countries (updated on the 1st of July 2017) by the number of people diagnosed:
- There are almost 110 million people officially diagnosed with obesity in the US and over 97 million – in China.
- One is six obese people is American, and another one of these six – Chinese.
- Quite interesting, that the percentage from the overall population dramatically differs in these two countries: 33.7% in the USA (every 3rd person) against 6.90% in China (every 12th).
- The United States and China are followed by India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia by the total number of obese people per country.
- Within the US the highest obesity rate is documented in West Virginia (37.7%), while the lowest in Colorado (22.3%).
- In China the percentage of obese people is extremely different in cities and rural places. Urban obesity rate may reach the same indicators as in the US or even higher.
- According to the Lancet Medical Journal, by the end of 2017 China has taken the leading place among most obese countries, bumping the US to the second place. The Journal reports about 10.8% of men and 14.9% of women in a nation of 1.4 billion people.
- According to the NHANES Examination Survey by National Center for Health Statistics, in the United States 38.7% of men are overweight, wile 5.5% are diagnosed with extreme obesity. For women the indicators are the following: overweight – 26.5%, extreme obesity – 9.9%. According to JAMA paper 2016, 17% of children and teenagers aged 2-19 are obese, while 5.8% suffer from extreme obesity.
Why did it happen so in the United States and China?
As a national problem obesity can be considered because of ineffective economic policies that fail to create incentives for healthy and rational eating or more exercising daily. In the US unhealthy eating habits have been developed mostly due to availability of low-priced food, especially those dense in calories, high in GI and low in nutrients. The situation is worsened by relatively low prices of driving a car in comparison to public transport.
In China the obesity epidemy has started not so long ago. About 45 years old during the reign of Mao Zedong the most widespread problem associated with nutrition was hunger. However, economic boost, urbanization, rising disposable incomes and interest to international cuisines made China one of the most attractive places for fast-food brands expansion. In rural regions of the country the problem is barely noticeable.
What nations are leanest?
It’s no surprise the first 10 places are occupied by developing countries of Central Africa and Asia, because of lack of food, but it’s very interesting to see modern and industrialized Japan at the 13th place in the list of least obese countries. The reasons for that can be the following: historically healthier diet and more walking throughout the day. An average Japanese consumes 200 less calories per day than an average American does. Daily physical efforts of an average Japanese are a few times higher that those of an average American.
Another significant difference is economic: in Japan it is quite expensive to own and drive a car, therefore representative of this Asian nation tend to use public transportation. It increases the time spent walking or standing and raises the number of calories burnt. Japanese major cities and their public transportation infrastructure has been developing together, so in overpopulated Japan it became much faster, easier and cheaper to choose public transit for commuting.
Some people may disagree by saying that Japanese are genetically predisposed to be smaller and leaner. However, their Asian neighbors from China have very similar genetics, but still have a major problem with obesity. According to Wikipedia, around 10.7% of Asian Americans are obese too, so the argument with some special genetics is not an argument at all.
What can be done in ‘most obese’ countries to solve this problem?
There is enough information of individual tips and solutions for people willing to lose weight.
Here are 5 most effective ways to lose weight:
- Increase the number of burnt calories by choosing stairs instead of elevator, walking instead of taking a bus or taxi, playing active games with kids instead of watching movies together.
- Add regular physical exercises, there are plenty of options: strength workouts, swimming, jogging, dancing, Pilates, yoga etc.
- Avoid unhealthy, calorie-dense and high GI foods and drinks, primarily those containing wheat flour, sugars and alcohol.
- Stick to healthy mono-component foods: vegetables, fruits, whole-grain cereals, legumes, lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, lean dairy, soy etc.
- Find an inedible source of pleasant emotions, inspiration and fun – it can be a new hobby, some self-time alone and whatever makes you happier. This will help beat a ‘comfort eating’ habit.
To think globally, there is space for economic, social and political changes that could significantly improve the situation and make people leaner and healthier:
- Raising the cost of driving a car with simultaneous decreasing the cost of public transportation in China and United States governments to presumable increase physical efforts and help nations lose excess fat.
- Cutting the time cost of simple exercising (walking, jogging, riding a bicycle) to make it easier for people to start. It includes investment in building a network of urban walking and bicycle pathways.
- Making city streets safer for regular walking by traffic regulations and decreasing crime.
- Increasing the lunchtime for employers so that part of it could be used for physical exercising or walking.
- Fighting against lobbying of global fast-food companies, introducing taxes and reinforced regulations or marketing of unhealthy snacks high in calories and low in nutrients to make them less available to people.
- Introducing health plan in the US – similar to “Healthy China 2030 “ , which covers such issues as public health, environment, medicine, and food and drug safety.
- Educating children and increasing public awareness about healthy eating habits, exercising and weight management.
Countries need comprehensive policy packages, including interventions in schools, primary care establishments and extensive regulatory and fiscal policies. Altogether these measures are potent to provide a cost-effective and popular solution to fight obesity globally.