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Obesity

Obesity is emerging as a health epidemic around the world. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is rapidly spreading across all regions and demographic groups.

The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years, resulting in 63% of adult Australians being classified as obese. Obesity has even taken over smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia and become the single biggest threat to public health.

Obesity is an excess of total body fat, which results from caloric intake that exceeds energy usage. A measurement used to assess health risks of obesity is Body Mass Index (BMI).

Obesity can be a combination of the following:

  • Genes inherited from parents
  • How well the body turns food into energy
  • Eating and exercise habits
  • Surroundings
  • Psychological factors

All doctors recognise that once a patients weight exceeds a certain range they are more likely to suffer from a wide range of illnesses such as diabetes, sleep apnoea, asthma, hypertension, arthritis, varicose veins and skin problems. Their chances of dying at a premature age is also greatly increased. Their employment prospects, mobility and social acceptance also suffers.

Depression is much more common in the morbidly obese.

People who are obese, severely obese, or morbidly obese have a shorter life expectancy and are more susceptible to a range of major health risks, negative psychological and social factors and difficulties with day-to-day living.

  • Premature death (50% – 100% increased risk)
  • Diabetes (type 2)
  • Joint problems (e.g. arthritis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Certain types of cancer (e.g. breast, uterine, colon, endometrium, prostate)
  • Digestive disorders (e.g. gastroesophageal reflux disease, GORD)
  • Breathing difficulties (e.g. sleep apnoea, asthma)
  • Problems with fertility and pregnancy
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Negative self-image
  • Greater risk of mental problems (e.g. depression)
  • Social isolation
  • Discrimination
  • Employment prospects suffer
  • Normal tasks become harder as movement is more difficult
  • Shortness of breath and tiring more quickly
  • Public transport seats, desk chairs and cars seats may be too small
  • Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. BMI does not differentiate between body fat and muscle mass, therefore, people who have a lot of muscle bulk such as body builders will have a high BMI but are not overweight.

Fat predominantly distributed around the waist becomes a risk factor for health complications such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Fat predominantly deposited around the hips and buttocks do not have the same risk.

Being overweight or underweight can affect your health.

BMI Classification
<18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25-29.9 Overweight
>30 Obese
>35 Severely Obese
>40 Morbidly Obese
>50 Super Obese

Conventional methods of weight loss include dieting, exercise and medication. These methods have a positive effect on the body but for people who are morbidly obese, these efforts are often only successful in the short term.

For many, this can translate into what’s called the “yo-yo syndrome,” where patients continually gain and lose weight with the possibility of serious psychological and health consequences.

Several studies have shown that patients on diets, exercise programs, or medication are able to lose approximately 10% of their body weight but tend to regain two-thirds of it within one year, and almost all of it within five years**. Another study found that less than 5% of patients in weight loss programs were able to maintain their reduced weight after five years*.

Thanks to increasing medical and technological advancements, there are now many surgical weight loss options available.

Gastrointestinal surgery for obesity, also called bariatric surgery, changes the normal digestive process. The operations promote weight loss by decreasing absorption of nutrients and thereby reducing the calorie intake.

Surgical treatment is highly effective for permanent weight loss, reducing not only weight but also reducing the effects of health conditions associated with obesity. Along the way most people find an improvement in their mobility, body image, self-esteem and enjoyment of life.