04 April 2014

Is being overweight or obese dangerous?

Being overweight or obese may be seen as a good or a bad thing, depending on the existing cultural and social setting.

In modern Western society being overweight or obese often has a negative social stigma, while in other cultures the reverse may be true with obesity seen as a mark of wellbeing and or wealth.

What is clear though is that excess weight is linked to an increase in health risks, including the chronic diseases linked to Metabolic Syndrome such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

A weighty issue

In the 1990’s there was increased interest in the health impact of the growing obesity epidemic, not only in first world countries but in the developing world too, as researchers realised that as obesity rates soared, so did the prevalence of some of the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, especially cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers began looking for common denominators and noticed that the growing obesity rate was matched by an increase in the consumption of processed foods, edible seed oils and sugar sweetened foods and beverages.

Dr Peter Hill of Met-S Care says, “Epidemiological studies, i.e. studies that investigate the factors that lead to the presence, incidence and control of disease, are generally not able to assign cause but rather refer to association, especially when it comes to diseases of the metabolic syndrome. In other words, obesity is not the cause of heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes etc. but it is associated with these diseases. It is in effect a fellow traveller.”

Recent research seems to indicate that people who are of normal weight or slightly overweight are likely to have better health outcomes than thin people and those who are obese. So an important question to ask is, “Will weight loss in overweight and obese people mean improved health?”

Do weight loss improve health outcomes?

Dr Andreas Eenfeldt, a Swedish medical practitioner  tells the story during one of his lectures about a Swedish man in his late 50’s who was obese, weighing about 115kg. He suffered from a number of chronic diseases including heart disease (he is reported to have had seven heart attacks), diabetes and high blood pressure. He had also undergone coronary artery bypass surgery and was on a grocery list of 12 medications.

The man heard about low-carbohydrate eating and the dramatic effect that it had had on others and decided that he had nothing to lose by adopting this lifestyle modification (he had previously been following a high carbohydrate, low fat diet).

The man in question shed 32kg and in the process normalised both his blood sugar (no more diabetes) and blood pressure (no more high blood pressure). In addition, he was able to come off 11 of the 12 medications he was taking, and was able to resume a much more active social life. In a nutshell, this man was able to reclaim his life – no small achievement given his previous medical history. And all it took was a change in lifestyle behaviour – mainly a change in diet.  

The answer then is, “Yes, in all likelihood, obese and overweight individuals battling the chronic  diseases associated with metabolic syndrome are likely to improve their health if they lose weight and modify their lifestyles in doing so –especially if they eliminate sugar and other refined carbohydrates from their diets.”

If you feel you may have Metabolic Syndrome, or you would like help to lose weight, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy, get tested and get help.

Read more: Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with Metabolic Syndrome to take control of their condition.


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