Now let’s move on to see why obesity is bad for us, and also how bad it can be? Obesity can make a person less confident and less motivated in his social life. Obesity can put restrictions on the free movements of a person which reflects in his/her social behavior. Is it the only problem of being obese? Unfortunately, the answer is No! Social and cosmetic problem associated with obesity is just a tip of an iceberg. The real problem which is not apparent externally but can become far more dangerous and worrisome. Obesity is associated with multiple health problems like Diabetes, High blood pressure, High cholesterol levels, Heart attacks collectively known as Metabolic Syndrome. It may result in a long-standing morbidity and can culminate in to death at very early age. It makes the problem of obesity a very serious issue. Today obesity is spreading like an epidemic all over the world. It has become important for us to be aware of its hazards and be prepared to fight against it.In this article we will discuss the health issues associated with obesity one by one. It is important to note that majority of health problems due to obesity are associated with high levels of visceral fat, which may not be noticeable externally for majority of times and present hidden deep inside our body.
The health hazards associated with obesity are:
INSULIN RESISTANCE AND DIABETES:
Insulin is a hormone secreted by specific cells (beta Cells) of pancreas. It reduces the blood sugar level by transporting it from blood to the Liver, muscles and fat cells in our body for its effective utilization and storage.
Excess amount of body fat (visceral fat) in an obese person releases certain harmful chemicals like Triglycerides (fatty acids), which can interfere with the action of insulin reduce its effectiveness. Thus, insulin remains available but cannot function properly. (This situation is called as insulin resistance).
Ineffective utilization of blood sugar due to insulin resistance results in high blood sugar levels and development of Diabetes mellitus.
ABNORMAL BLOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:
Excess amount of body fat, visceral fat/obesity is associated with rise in Blood cholesterol levels. Increase in the LDL (Bad Cholesterol) levels and decrease in HDL (Good Cholesterol) cholesterol levels creates a serious health problem.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE:
Visceral fat/abdominal obesity creates insulin resistance, where insulin levels in the blood are high but its effect on blood sugar levels is insufficient. High insulin levels result in retention of Sodium by kidneys. Excess levels of sodium in blood increases blood pressure.
Fat cells secrete certain chemicals including leptin. Excess levels of leptin in an obese person cause stimulation of nervous system (sympathetic) to burn that excess amount fat which in turn increases blood pressure.
EFFECT ON BLOOD VESSELS:
Obesity is responsible for the rise in bad types of Cholesterol (LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides) in the blood. This cholesterol gets deposited and form plaques along the walls of blood vessels like arteries and veins. It makes the walls of blood vessels hard, less flexible and also narrows downs their diameter. This culminates into reduction in the blood flow to the vital organs, which can have grave consequences.
INCREASE CLOT FORMATION (INCREASE IN BLOOD COAGULABILITY) IN BLOOD:
Platelets are the special types of cells present in the blood which help in control/stoppage of bleeding by the way of clot formation.
In obese individual with high LDL & Triglycerides (Bad Cholesterol)levels, low HDL (Good cholesterol) levels & high Leptin levels due to increased amount of Fatty tissues potentiates the clot forming activity of platelets.
In human body there is one more system within blood which works on breaking excess amount clots that are formed. Harmful chemicals secreted by fat cells hampers the effective functioning of this clot breaking system and further contributes in the clot formation.
INCREASED CHANCES OF CHEST PAIN AND HEART ATTACKS:
In an obese person the heart has to function more to burn the excess amount of fat accumulated inside the body. To perform this increased demand heart requires more amount oxygen and nutrition from blood.
Increased levels of LDL and Triglycerides (Bad Cholesterol) and increased coagulability of blood (clot formation) are responsible for the formation of plaques within the blood vessels including those supplying heart.
This narrows down the lumen of these blood vessels and reduce the amount of blood flowing through it. Reduction of blood supply to the heart means less supply of oxygen and nutrition and it manifests as chest pain. If the situation further worsens it can culminate into heart attack (Myocardial Infarction).
A blood clot formed in the blood vessel (due to increased clot forming ability of blood in an obese person) at some other location within the body sometimes gets dislodged, travels through the circulation and gets stuck inside a small blood vessel supplying the brain and occludes it. Similarly, if a plaque is formed (Due to increase in LDL cholesterol/triglycerides in an obese person) within the lumen of blood vessel supplying the brain it reduces the blood flow considerably. The reduced supply of blood to the brain can deprive it for oxygen and nutrition. Which can result in damage to the brain tissue and manifests as paralysis.
There are multiple mechanisms which eventually contribute to the failing of heart in an obese individual.
Abdominal obesity is associated with excess amount of visceral fat which is very hard to burn. To burn this heart is required to function more than its normal capacity. If this continues for a prolonged period, heart muscles get weakened and its capacity to function at optimum level deteriorates.
In an obese person visceral fat do get accumulated around the heart. When this accumulation of fats exceeds certain limit, it enters within the heart muscle and weaken them.
Weakening of heart muscle cause decrease the capacity of heart to function at optimum level and put an obese individual at the risk of heart failure and early death.
There are multiple respiratory problems that are linked with obesity.
PULMONARY EMBOLISM: We are already aware that obesity causes increase in blood clot formation. Sometimes clot formation can occur in the veins situated deep within our legs. When this clot gets dislodged (Called as Embolus), it travels through the blood circulation and gets stuck inside a blood vessel that supplies blood to lungs. This situation is called as pulmonary embolism. It can be a fatal condition.
BREATHLESSNESS: Excess visceral fat deposition in an obese individual result in an abdominal obesity. This excess abdominal fat restricts full expansion of the lungs during exertion. Thus, obese person feels breathlessness earlier and at less level of activity as compared to the healthy individual.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA: Obstructive sleep apnoea means a person feels breathless while sleeping to such an extent that he gets a chocking sensation. It becomes difficult for such person to sleep in a supine (Lying down) position. This results in a poor-quality sleep during night and consequently daytime sleepiness. It hampers the productivity of that person. This can frequently happen with an obese person because, the visceral fat accumulated around the belly region prevents full expansion of lungs in a supine(lying down) position. Visceral fat that is accumulated in the neck region and around the windpipe narrows down the breathing passage. Both of these mechanisms result in breathlessness and choking during sleep.
ASTHMA: Harmful chemical secreted by fatty tissues cause irritation of respiratory tract to generate an allergic response. which when becomes severe can result into Asthma.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME AND INFERTILITY:
Obesity (Visceral Obesity) is responsible for the development of insulin resistance. During the phase of insulin resistance excess of insulin which is secreted by pancreas fails to metabolize blood sugar effectively. The excess levels of insulin cause secretion of the hormone called Androgen. Androgen gets converted by fat cells intoestrogen. In women the excess of estrogen along with Androgen disrupt the normal function of ovaries, and increase the chances of developing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Having Polycystic Ovarian syndrome becomes a risk factor for Infertility.
OBESITY INDUCED COMPLICATION DURING PREGNANCY
Obese women are likely to experience certain complications during pregnancy, such as,
Increased risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy (Preeclampsia)
Risk of developingdiabetes during pregnancy.
Increased risk of miscarriage (Spontaneous Abortion).
Increased risk of infections post-delivery.
Less chance of having normal delivery with increased possibility of cesarean section delivery.
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY:
HEARTBURN AND ACIDITY:
In an obese person excess fat deposition occurs around stomach inlet and food pipe. Excess amount of fatty tissue cause secretion of female sex hormone- estrogen. High levels of estrogen increase gastric acid secretion.
Deposition/presence of excessive fat around abdominal region (Abdominal obesity) increases intra-abdominal pressure which causes compression of sphincter at the junction of stomach and food pipe (esophagus). This decreases the clearance of acid from the food pipe (esophagus)
Both of these conditions contribute in causing injury to the covering (mucosa) of stomach and food pipe (esophagus) and manifests as heartburn/acidity.
LIVER INJURY: Obesity develops insulin resistance. This excess insulin acts on visceral fat to release certain harmful chemicals like free fatty acids. These free fatty acids get accumulated within the liver. Under normal conditions liver can effectively metabolize these fatty acids. When the rate of accumulation exceeds the rate of metabolism, these free fatty acids starts getting deposited within the liver as fats. Presence of excess amount of fatty tissues in liver cause programmed death of liver cells and ultimately results in liver failure.
GALLSTONES: Presence of visceral fat in excess and abdominal obesity increases the cholesterol formation within the bile in gall bladder. Presence of excess visceral fat reduces motility of gallbladder to cause bile stasis. As a result,the cholesterol present in bile gets deposited as stones within the gallbladder.
HERNIAS: HERNIA means protrusion of an intraabdominal content (Omentum, intestines, bladder, etc.) or it’s part through a defect in abdominal musculature. The excess of visceral fat in an obese person creates weakness in abdominal muscles tissues. In addition, obesity increases the intraabdominal pressure. Both these conditions contribute together in the development of hernias.
Abdominal obesity is associated with increased deposition of visceral fat. This excess of fat increases secretion of female sex hormone called estrogen. It also causes decrease in male sex hormone testosterone. Both these things result in altered function of male fertility system and decrease the total sperm count. whichis responsible for male infertility.
MUSCULOSKELETAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY
a)OSTEOARTHRITIS: There are multiple reasons responsible for development of osteoarthritis (Pain and friction in joint) in an obese person.
Excess fat that has been accumulated inside the body functions as an organ and secretes certain pro-inflammatory (harmful) chemicals. These chemicals destroy the cartilage present in the joint. Cartilage prevents friction between the adjacent bones and also lubricates the joint. Loss of cartilage increases friction within the joint and induce pain.
Obesity means excess body weight. Excess body weight puts weight bearing joints (e.g. Knee joints) at stress due to mechanical overloading
Both these mechanisms eventually cause destruction of the joint to create pain and friction
b) OSTEOPOROSIS:Osteoporosis is condition where bones become fragile, brittle and can break easily. Obesity is one of the major factor responsible for it. Let’s see how,
Under normal circumstances bone undergoes metabolism with the help of bone forming (osteoblasts) and bone degrading cells (osteoclasts). Both of these processes i.e. Bone formation and bone degradation function in harmony, to keep the bone healthy.
Excess of fatty tissue in an obese individual secretes certain harmful chemicals which increase the activity of bone degrading cells and decrease the function of bone forming cells. Rate of bone formation fails to match the rate of bone degradation, which makes bone weaker and weaker resulting in osteoporosis.
c) LOW BACK PAIN
In our vertebral column (Spine) every single vertebra is separated from the adjacent one by means of a cartilaginous tissue called as Intervertebral Disk. Intervertebral disk prevents friction between two adjacent vertebrae and also acts as a shock absorber.
Harmful chemical secreted by visceral fat, cause degeneration of this inter vertebral disk (due to destruction of cartilage). This increases friction between the adjacent vertebrae during movement. It also reduces the shock absorbing capacity of the spine.
This makes an obese person susceptible to the development of mechanical back pain and also to some extent increase the risk of fractures of vertebral column.
d) RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS:Excess fat that is present in an obese individual is chemically active. It produces certain inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals create inflammation and damage the joint tissues at multiple location in the body. This inflammatory activity puts an individual at the risk of Rheumatoid arthritis and joint damage.
EFFECT OF OBESITY ON SKIN:
DELAYED WOUND HEALING: Leptin is a hormone which along with other factors plays an important role in wound healing process. In an obese individual more, number of fat cells secrete more amount of leptin. Though it is in excess it remains ineffective due to leptin resistance. This can delay the process of wound healing in an Obese individual.
SKIN INFECTIONS:Excess of fat gets accumulated beneath the skin of an obese individual. This increases the number of skin folds. The sweat gets trapped within these skin folds. The toxins along with sweat remain trapped within these skin folds, and favor the growth of infective microorganisms. This increases the risk of skin infections.
RISK OF CANCERS:
Fat cells in our body are chemically active. More the obese a person is more the number of fat cells present in his body. These chemically active fat cells release certain proteins and hormones. These hormones and proteins act as a chemical messenger and affect the normal functioning of the body. Which many a times results in development of different types of cancers. E.g.
‘Wealth’ is what enriches and ‘divine wealth’ is enrichment that comes along with grateful awareness that we owe this wealth to ‘The Divine’. We are talking here about the divine wealth that is ‘health’