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LAHORE: Medical experts say that 800 million people living with obesity all over the world are twice as likely to be hospitalized if tested positive for Covid-19.
They said childhood obesity is expected to increase by 60% over the next decade, reaching 250 million by 2030.
Addressing the public seminar on the occasion of “World Obesity Day,” Punjab President of General Cadre Doctors Association Dr Masood Sheikh said the medical consequences of obesity will cost over $1 trillion by 2025.
He said the individuals were not to blame for their obesity, as it is often driven by forces outside of a person’s control, and is the result of complex biological, genetic, and environmental factors, mental health, healthcare access, and access to ultra-processed food.
He added that this year’s campaign theme is ‘Changing Perspectives: Let’s Talk About Obesity’.
World Obesity Day calls for a cohesive, cross-sector response to the obesity crisis, as biological and genetic factors put people at greater risk.
“Our physical and social environments impact our ability to live healthy lives and expose us to unhealthy foods that are engineered to make us eat more,” he said.
Obesity is therefore the result of complex biological, genetic, and environmental factors, he said, adding that weight is one indicator of obesity, but treating obesity is about improving overall health, not just about losing weight.
A person with a higher body mass index can manage their disease and live at a ‘healthy weight’.
Obesity is now rising the fastest in lower- and middle-income countries, he said, adding that many are simultaneously tackling overweight, obesity, and undernutrition.
Obesity is especially prevalent in poorer and more vulnerable communities. Childhood obesity has nearly doubled every 10 years.
It can profoundly affect children’s physical health, social, and emotional well-being, and self-esteem.
Dr Sheikh said that it is associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life and often carries through to adulthood, so prevention and treatment are vital to stopping a global rise in obesity.
Dr Muhamad Shahbaz said that obesity is on the rise globally, and efforts to address it are challenging due to misconceptions about obesity and the role it plays in a person’s health.
He said “eating less, moving more,” which implies that weight loss is just about diet, ignoring other drivers of obesity.
He said that although physical exercise plays an important role in overall health and can be used in the context of comprehensive weight management interventions and prevention strategies, exercise alone is not an effective obesity treatment.
Dr Muneer Ghauri said that obesity can damage mental and physical well-being and may prevent people from seeking necessary medical care.
“We are raising awareness and improving our understanding of its root causes and the actions needed to address them,” he said.
Creating a healthy environment that prioritizes obesity as a health issue, Dr Ghauri said, adding that the relationship between mental health and obesity is complex. Some mental health disorders, and their associated medications, can lead to weight gain, while excess weight increases the risk of certain disorders, such as depression.
Dr Asad Abbas Shah said that simplifying the disease to any one cause can make treating it even harder. “So we must raise awareness and improve access to the appropriate information,” he said. He warned that ultra-processed food, now seen across the globe, is contributing to the rapid rise in obesity.
“Our genes account for somewhere between 40 and 70% of the likelihood of developing obesity,” Dr Shah said.
Dr Arif Iftikhar said that without access to trained healthcare professionals, most people who suffer from obesity won’t reach and maintain a healthy long-term weight goal.
He said prenatal life, early adulthood, pregnancy, illnesses, and medications can all influence weight gain. Symptoms of some mental health disorders, and their associated medications, can lead to weight gain.
Lack of sleep disturbs hormones, which can affect your weight—as can high levels of stress, he said.
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2023
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