On World Obesity Day, campaign calls for a new look at the disease
Obesity is excess body fat in an amount that causes harm to health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is considered obese when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is equal to or greater than 30 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²). The normal weight range is between 18.5 kg/m² and 24.9 kg/m².
The World Obesity Atlas 2022, published by the World Obesity Federation, predicts that, in 2030, about 30% of adult Brazilians and 15.7% of children and adolescents will have some degree of the disease. Worldwide, the Atlas estimates that 1 billion people will be obese that year.
To mark World Obesity Day, celebrated this Saturday (4), the campaign of the Brazilian Society of Endocrinology and Metabology (SBEM) has as its theme this year A New Way of Looking. “The objective is to draw attention as a chronic, multifactorial, recurrent disease, which has multiple aspects in its genesis and not just as an old view of the result of bad habits,” said the entity’s president, Paulo Miranda.
The campaign highlights the importance of an empathetic look and the perception that people living with obesity should have, the difficulties they face, the organic aspects that involve weight gain and loss, in addition to multiple comorbidities. SBEM’s goal is to alert society to these multiple aspects and the need to “perceive obesity differently, with a new and more empathetic look, understanding the stories of people who live with the disease”, said the expert.
Sedentary lifestyle and obesity
Miranda confirmed that both in Brazil and in the world there is a growing number of overweight and obese people. In Brazil, according to him, overweight people exceed half of the adult population and reach an increasing number of children. “Obesity and overweight in childhood draw attention and are even more worrying. The longer one lives and the earlier the appearance, the greater the risk of accumulating comorbidities, the greater the lifetime exposure to these problems, leading to multiple complications , such as the risk of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease with early death, some types of cancer. That is, all this in addition to the impact on quality of life and other diseases that also worsen when they affect people with obesity”.
Paulo Miranda recalled that it is very important to have the vision that obesity is a chronic disease, with multifactorial aspects, whose incidence is increasing worldwide and which, apparently, by the numbers observed, will continue to grow in the next decade. Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that the prevalence of obesity among children in Brazil is around 15%. He added that the longer a person lives with excess weight, the greater the metabolic impact and risk of developing associated complications, including musculoskeletal comorbidities.
In Paulo Miranda’s assessment, the best way to prevent obesity is to encourage healthy lifestyle habits. He considers that this factor involves public policies such as encouraging the consumption of healthy foods, taxing foods associated with a higher risk of obesity, as in some countries. “We already know that excessive consumption of industrialized, ultra-processed foods, soft drinks and sweetened beverages is also related to a greater risk of developing obesity”.
On the other hand, the consumption of food in natura, prepared at home, which have scientifically proven greater preventive action against obesity. The same occurs in relation to encouraging the practice of physical activity and the transformation of environments, so that active movement can be done more frequently and, even, encouraging public spaces to practice these activities. “All these actions are proven to help us to be healthier and to be able to prevent the disease”.
“We know that there are ways to prevent most cases of obesity and overweight. However, we should not see people who develop overweight or obesity as the result of bad habits, because there are other important aspects that involve the individual risk for the development of the disease. Among them is, for example, the genetic predisposition”, said the endocrinologist.
Miranda highlighted the importance of having a broad view of what a population prevention action is and looking at individual risk. “This makes us see better the complexity of the problem of obesity, the difficulties faced by people who have the disease, either in their daily lives and with reduced quality of life, or when seeking care and treatment in an attempt to reverse the situation”.
According to the specialist, one of the limitations faced by obese people is the lack of availability of medication for pharmacological treatment by the Unified Health System (SUS).
Endocrinologist Lorena Lima Amato, member of SBEM, confirmed that obesity can cause complications for the development of bones, joints and muscles in children who are constantly growing. She suggested encouraging energy-consuming activities, such as riding a skateboard, riding a bicycle and playing tag, which help combat a sedentary lifestyle. Regarding infant nutrition, he recommended that parents and guardians avoid snacks and excess sweets. He recalled the need to offer fruits, green leaves and vegetables to children. For Lorena, this exchange is not always well regarded by the child but, little by little, it makes all the difference in the quality of life.
For the specialist, children need a routine, including when eating. Established meal times help decrease the chance of escaping and eating foods like snacks. Excessive consumption of fried and industrialized foods should also be avoided. Regarding water, she recalled that it can inhibit the desire to eat and, therefore, the child should not drink water at least 30 minutes before meals. In addition, Lorena said that leaving fruit available and within reach of the child is a great solution to encourage healthy eating.