Get to know Why Obesity Is becoming a Global Concern

Obesity is a growing issue among people with the growth in reliability of fast foods and expanding work life. In previous times, most of the work was done physically, and there wasn’t much workload. But as there is a growth in technology, we can do mostly any kind of work while sitting in a place, hence reducing our physical activity. Also, these are the times when home-cooked nutritious meals have taken a backseat and there has been an increase in fast foods with low nutritional value and high fats. This increases the risk of being a higher-weight person.

What Is Obesity

Obesity is defined as excessive accumulation of fat in the body, which can have adverse effects on a person’s health. It is typically determined by calculating the body mass index (BMI) the ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms to the square of the height in meters. The World Health Organization defines obesity as BMI being greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2. Though BMI is a very helpful and reliable tool, it fails to accurately reflect an individual’s body composition, such as muscle mass and fat mass. Hence, we cannot say truly if a higher-weight person according to BMI will have severe health effects.

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A national food and nutrition security survey was conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council to map the hunger and malnutrition hotspots in South Africa. Over 34,500 families provided data for this study between 2021 and 2023. Over the past 30 years, South Africa has experienced a nutritional shift marked by the triple burden of malnutrition: households are concurrently dealing with undernutrition, hidden hunger, and overweight or obesity because of nutrient-poor diets.

Nearly half of South Africa’s adult population was overweight or higher-weight person, according to the findings of the National Food and Nutrition Security Survey, the country’s first comprehensive, statewide survey on food and nutrition since 1994. Even though both local production and imports of food provided enough food to nourish everyone, many families and individuals went to bed hungry.

Families could not afford basic food products and had to rely on social subsidies due to high unemployment rates. In an attempt to stave off hunger, many tended to purchase foods low in nutrients.

Some of the significant findings were,
  • Sixty-nine percent of adult higher-weight people came from food-insecure homes where there were few dietary options and a high pressure to eat low-nutrient foods.
  • Of the female population, almost two-thirds (67.9%) were overweight. The prevalence of obesity was greater in women than in males.
  • Obesity was far more common in adults between the ages of 35 and 64 than in younger age groups. The fact that children are more active than adults and that their metabolisms differ from each other could account for this.
  • In comparison to the other provinces, KwaZulu-Natal showed a higher prevalence of obesity (39.4%). To investigate this discovery and determine whether cultural variables are to blame, more research is required. Another study was conducted by the Lancet to understand worldwide trends in underweight and obesity from 1990 to 2022 in adults, adolescents, and school-aged children in 200 countries and territories. The results highlighted three significant shifts in underweight and obesity prevalence since 1990.


The prevalence of both under and obesity has increased in the majority of countries, with only a few exceptions in South and Southeast Asia, as well as in some age-class groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The decreased prevalence of the double burden was largely driven by the decline in underweight, while the increase was driven by obesity, resulting in a shift from underweight prevalence to obesity prevalence in most countries. The increase in double burden occurred mostly in low- and middle-income countries, such as Polynesia (Micronesia), the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa; in newly high-income countries like Chile; and in men in central Europe, where obesity prevalence is now higher than in industrialized high-income countries.

Finally, the shift to obesity in adults was already evident in most of the world in 1990, with the vast majority of countries having adult obesity above underweight prevalence at that time; and it has followed this trend in school-age children and adolescents.

Childhood Obesity and India

The prevalence of childhood obesity is largely attributed to modern India, which is home to American-style malls and fast-food outlets, as well as new-fangled cars and air conditioners that have drastically changed the lives of affluent families. Children are more sedentary today than ever before, with the pressure of studying and performing well in school weighing heavily on their time. They spend most of their free time playing video games, on mobile phones, or on social media. According to the Obesity Foundation, the problem is so widespread that it can be attributed to the proliferation of television commercials advertising unhealthy foods and unhealthy eating habits. The Foundation estimates that children’s soda consumption has risen by 300% over the past 20 years.

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However, obesity is not confined to the urban poor, as Indian researchers have discovered that it is also a problem in India’s villages, where three-quarters of the country’s population still live. According to a study published in the Journal of Indian Medicine, the percentage of overweight rural Indians rose from 2.2% in 1989 to 17.1% in 2012.

Causes of Obesity

Obesity can result from a combination of genetic, environmental, behavioral, and socioeconomic factors. Some common risk factors of obesity include.

  • Unhealthy Diet: Consuming high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as fast foods, sugary beverages, and processed snacks can contribute to weight gain.
  • Lack Of Physical Activity: leading a sedentary lifestyle with minimal physical activity can lead to weight gain and muscle loss.
  • Genetics: genetic factors can lead to individual susceptibility to obesity by affecting metabolism, appetite regulation, and fat storage.
  • Medical Conditions: certain medical conditions like hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing’s syndrome can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
  • Medications: some medications such as certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, and corticosteroids can cause weight gain as a side effect.
  • Psychological Factors: emotional factors like stress, anxiety, depression, and an unhealthy coping mechanism such as emotional eating can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Psychological Effects of Obesity

Obesity can have severe physical and mental effects on an individual. We have always heard about the physical effects of obesity like being at risk for various cardiovascular diseases, joint problems respiratory issues, etc. Now, let us investigate the psychological effects of obesity. Obesity can cause various social and psychological problems like:

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1) Low self-esteem and Depression:

It has been discovered that people who are higher-weight or overweight tend to have low self-esteem. This may be due to social stigmatization, negative stereotypes, and internalized beliefs about body image, which leads to feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self-criticism. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of depression and mood disorders. The psychological stress of dealing with obesity-related challenges such as weight management, social stigma, and health concerns, can contribute to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair.

2) Anxiety and Avoidance behaviors:

Many individuals with obesity experience anxiety related to body image, social interactions, and health worries. Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety disorder may be more prevalent in people with obesity. Some individuals with obesity may engage in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding social situations, physical activities, or health-care appointments, due to fear of judgment or negative experiences related to their weight.

3) Eating disorders:

While not everyone with obesity has an eating disorder, there can be a complex interplay between obesity and disordered eating behaviors. This may include binge eating disorder (BED), emotional eating, or restrictive eating patterns. Obesity is a concerning issue rising in the world. We must be careful of what we eat and embrace physical activities in our routines to lead a happy and healthy life.

How to Manage Obesity

Management of obesity typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, which includes adopting a healthy diet, increasing physical activities, behavioral interventions, and sometimes medications and surgical methods. Let us see some of them in brief.

1) Lifestyle changes:

Lifestyle changes to manage obesity include eating a healthy and balanced diet containing all the required nutrients in appropriate quantities. Focusing on whole foods, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, etc., and avoiding sugary beverages, processed foods, and high-calorie snacks. Also, keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 6-7 glasses of water a day.

2) Physical activity:

Physical activities include many activities that help in burning extra calories. Engaging in regular exercises such as walking, swimming, jogging, doing strength training, etc. helps keep you active and fit. According to health guidelines aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

3) Behavioral interventions:

Behavioral interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior counseling can help individuals develop healthy eating habits, manage emotional eating, and also improve self-control. It also addresses the psychological factors contributing to obesity. As stress is also a factor that might lead to unhealthy eating habits, stress management strategies like mindfulness, meditation, etc. can help individuals improve overall well-being.

4) Medical and surgical interventions:

In some cases, doctors prescribe medications to assist in weight loss, especially for individuals who have severe obesity-related health outcomes and lifestyle changes haven’t helped much to reduce it. Also in overly higher-weight people where there are severe health effects due to obesity bariatric surgery can be considered. These surgeries reduce the stomach or change the way food is absorbed leading to significant health outcomes.


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