Obesity is key for reducing chronic disease risk in kids, adults: Experts

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) Obesity, a known precursor for many conditions like diabetes, hypertension, mental health and cancers, must be efficiently controlled to curb these non-communicable diseases, said experts here on Sunday, a day ahead of World Obesity Day.

World Obesity Day is observed every year on March 4 to raise awareness about the condition and its implications.

A recent global analysis, published by The Lancet, showed that every eighth person or more than 1 billion people worldwide are living with obesity. While 43 per cent of adults were overweight in 2022, the numbers more than doubled worldwide in the last three decades. Among children and adolescents (5 to 19 years of age), the condition has increased four times.

The numbers are even more staggering in India, where non-communicable diseases are already sky-high.

In India, a whopping 12.5 million children (7.3 million boys and 5.2 million girls), aged between five and 19, were grossly overweight in 2022. Among adults, the numbers rose from 2.4 million women and 1.1 million men in 1990 to 44 million women and 26 million men aged above 20 in 2022, the global report showed.

“Obesity has detrimental effects on health, raising the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Its emergence is attributed to various factors, including environment, lifestyle, and culture,” Dr. Gaurav Bansal, Senior Consultant - General Laparoscopic Laser and Bariatric Surgery, Marengo Asia Hospital, Gurugram, told IANS.

“Childhood obesity, particularly in those under 10 years old, poses significant implications for both immediate health and long-term well-being. The rise in obesity among children is linked to various factors, including sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits, and limited access to nutritious foods. The consequences extend beyond physical health, impacting psychological and social aspects as well,” added Dr. Vivek Bindal, Director & Head - Max Institute of Minimal Access, Bariatric & Robotic Surgery, Max Hospital, Vaishali.

Dr. Vivek explained to IANS that besides developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and joint problems, obese kids may also face challenges such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety due to societal pressures and potential bullying. Socially, obesity can contribute to social isolation and hinder the development of healthy peer relationships.

To curb obesity in kids, Dr. Gaurav said it is important to emphasise family dinners, restrict sugar-filled drinks and fast food, and manage portion sizes. Limiting screen time and promoting an hour of daily activity are vital when it comes to physical activity.

Further, Dr. S K Wagnoo, Senior Consultant Endocrinologist, Apollo Indraprastha Hospital, New Delhi, stated that addressing obesity is crucial for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease -- conditions that are rising significantly in the country.

He explained that obesity increases the risk of diabetes primarily through the development of insulin resistance and the secretion of inflammatory molecules by adipose (fat) tissue and dysregulation of fat metabolism.

“In the long term, obesity can also lead to pancreatic stress and damage, which then affects the organ's ability to produce sufficient insulin. This decline contributes to the progression of Type-2 diabetes in obese individuals,” he said.

High blood pressure (hypertension), unfavourable lipid profile or dyslipidemia are the various mechanisms by which obesity poses risks for the heart, said the health expert.

The experts called for regular health check-ups and early intervention to identify and address the potential health issues promptly. They also called for community engagement and awareness campaigns to help break down societal stigmas associated with obesity, fostering a supportive environment for affected children and adults.



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