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Obesity - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of fat. Numerous studies have shown the involvement of certain genes in the occurrence of obesity. They may indeed play a role in the predisposition to obesity by influencing one's feeding behavior, hormone production, as well as the function of certain proteins and metabolism.

Modification or abnormality of these genes is never the sole cause of weight gain or obesity, and eating habits as well as education both take a major part in its appearance and aggravation. Obesity increases the risk of some dangerous diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Contrary to what one might think, obesity is more common in children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. This is a major public health issue because of its impact on physical and psychological health.

Symptoms of Obesity

The main symptom of obesity is an increase in fat body mass. The definition is based on a calculation called Body Mass Index, which corresponds to dividing the weight in kilograms by height squared in meters. Apart from this overweightness, obesity is not responsible for visible signs. It does, however, cause many complications, including cardiac complications; difficulty breathing, ultimately progressing to respiratory failure; sleep apnea; an increased risk of developing diabetes; increased susceptibility to osteoarthritis; and greater risk of developing cancer.

Diagnosis of Obesity

Diagnosis to determine the type of obesity is based on BMI. A BMI between 25 and 30 signifies a patient that is overweight; one between 30 and 35 points to moderate obesity; and one between 35 and 40 is associated with severe obesity. Patients with a BMI over 40 are considered morbidly obese.

These values are determined in adults and children, and there are curves to identify normal values of BMI by sex and age. Measuring waist circumference is also possible for adults to differentiate male obesity, called android obesity, where there is a predominance of fat deposition in the upper body (abdomen in particular), whereas in women fat is deposited in the buttocks and thighs. Abdominal obesity may cause various complications.

Treatment of Obesity

The treatment of obesity is based on nutritional education, the practice of a sport or other physical activity, and psychological support.

In extreme cases, this may require bariatric surgery, including the placement of a gastric band.

Prevention of Obesity

The hereditary factor predisposes certain individuals to obesity. However, the genetic transmission of obesity is not fully demonstrated. The familial transmission of a nutritional lifestyle is clearly implicated in the occurrence of obesity.

The correction of abnormal eating habits starting at an early age prevents all forms of obesity. A balanced diet, coupled with regular physical activity or a sport, prevents obesity in most cases. Similarly, psychological support is necessary for a person who is not strong mentally and who may, therefore, turn to food. Prevention also relies on an early screening of overweightness, hence the need to regularly check one's BMI.

Image: © Kwanchai Chai - 123RF.com

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