Obesity and Disease – How Concerned Should We Really Be?

This week more headlines have arisen about the risks of diseases associated with being overweight and obese. Although, whilst there are some clear links I wanted to break these headlines down a little further.

Before I do that, I wanted to share some of the highlights from the articles:

-          Type 2 diabetes risk increases by 9 times in obese individuals

-          Morbid obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure by 3 times

-          Associations with obesity and sleep apnoea

-          Morbid obesity was linked to increased risks of dyslipidemia (high cholesterol and additional fats found in the blood)

I’m not here to suggest that these associations have no ground to stand on. Although I am here to explain some of the factors which can also be associated to increased risks and obesity.

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1.       Diet quality is just as (if not more important) than being a healthy weight. Obesity can arise simply from overconsuming (for a prolonged period of time) of healthy foods. In these cases it would be interesting to see whether the risks of these diseases would be reduced if diet quality was taken into account.

2.       You can be overweight and malnourished or overweight and nutrient replete. This point leads on from the point above. Just because an individual is overweight this isn’t to say that they are well nourished. Poor diet quality can lead to mal nourishment if nutrient requirements are not met.

3.       Weight doesn’t define health. It’s easy to see people who are ‘ripped’ on Instagram and think that a six-pack defines health. A very low body weight (particularly on females) can increase the risk of impaired hormone function and amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation).

4.       Obesity is measured based on BMI which doesn’t take muscle mass into account.

So whilst body weight is associated with the risk of diseases, it’s not the bee all and end all. It’s also really important to realise that weight and over/under eating is much more complex than simply eating too much or eating too little. Therefore, one should never feel judged as a result of their body shape or weight.