Q: Is there really an obesity epidemic going on?
A: The rates of people being diagnosed as overweight and obese in the United States are on the rise. Overweight is generally defined as a body mass index (your weight in kg divided by your height in meters squared) of 25-30 and obesity as a BMI > 30. Current estimates put the rates of obesity in the US around 35% with non-Hispanic blacks having the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (49.5%), compared with Mexican Americans (40.4%), all Hispanics (39.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (34.3%) according to a recent Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) article.
This is a very serious issue. Being obese greatly increases the risk for numerous deadly diseases. The rates of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and even certain types of cancers start to rise dramatically in relationship to obesity.
The causes of this emerging epidemic are multiple including diet, lack of exercise and genetics. There are some medical problems that can contribute to, but are rarely the sole cause of obesity, such as hypothyroidism. Hence, the initial strategies for combating this problem tend to be behavioral. Educating people about what is a healthy diet, what are a person’s eating habits and encouraging regular exercise are imperative to stopping it. However, when these approaches fail, medical therapy can include certain weight loss drugs and even surgeries such as gastric bands and bypasses.
Unfortunately, this epidemic is impacting multiple generations. In fact, approximately 20 percent of adolescents in American are overweight or obese. And, once an adolescent is obese it’s very unlikely they won’t carry that into adulthood. This is a deadly epidemic, but there is something we can do about it.
On November 1st, join us for a showing of the HBO documentary film, “The Weight of the Nation” at 6:30 p.m. at the Studio Movie Grill in Danada Square in Wheaton. A team of experts from Loyola’s Bariatric Program include dieticians and surgeons will be on-hand to answer questions about obesity and weight loss interventions.
Michael Gill, MD, PhD, has been bringing world-class care to the Wheaton area for 11 years and is the medical director at the Loyola Center for Health located just behind Whole Foods. He is double boarded in internal medicine and pediatrics and is an assistant professor in the departments of medicine and pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.