Just ten years ago, the World Health Organization called obesity the most visible, but neglected, public health problem in the world. Today guidelines out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determine who is considered obese or overweight based on body mass index, a measurement that puts height and weight in proportion. About half the women of reproductive age considered as obese women under World Health Organization guidelines (they use body fat analysis to make the distinction) would not be in this category using the NIH guidelines.
The international guidelines are a lot tougher – about half of white women and more than two third of Latinos in the U.S. would be considered obese under the WHO guidelines. WHO projects that by 2015, almost 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.
Why are we all gaining so much weight?
Globally our diets are moving toward a higher intake of energy dense foods that are high in fat and sugar but with few vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Look at portion sizes too. The other reason for our weight gain is the trend toward being less physically active – we’re working in front of computers, driving everywhere and generally doing less physical things all through our day.
“It is especially important to accurately assess obesity in reproductive-age women, as they are more likely to be obese than similarly aged men,” explains study author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “These women are at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other obesity-related health conditions, and may forgo or be overlooked for needed tests and treatments.”
We know that carrying extra weight, a little or a lot, is a major risk factor for a host of chronic illnesses, things like diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, heart disease and some (endometrial, breast and colon) cancers.
Where once obesity was only found in high-income countries, today overweight and obesity are on the rise in low to middle income nations, especially in cities.
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BMI Weight Ratings Unreliable… Continued…
The body mass index (BMI) used to determine who’s overweight and who isn’t is in itself a simple calculation involving weight and height. It’s the same formula for both men and women over age 15. A BMI from 25-29.9 is considered overweight; a BMI of 30 or over is considered obese; surprisingly there is evidence that the risk of chronic disease starts going up even at BMIs as low as 21. In terms of body fat analysis, the WHO’s criteria for obesity is a body fat measurement greater than 25% in men, 35% in women.
Many are coming to think that BMI isn’t the perfectly reliable measure of weight we would want. It might not work out to the same degree of fatness in different people. Experts worry that the inaccuracy of this measurement may deny obesity prevention programs to those who might really need them.
The good news is that how much weight you carry is largely under your control.
If you’re an obese women and are worried about your weight, today is the day to make the changes to get your weight under control. Moving forward, understand that all those extra pounds didn’t appear overnight and won’t be dropped in a few days or weeks. Slow, steady weight loss is what you’re after and before long that one or two pounds a week will add up to smaller sizes, feeling better and looking incredible to boot!
To your good health,
Daily Health Bulletin Editor