Medical science recognises obesity as a condition that leads to other diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and joint disease. But it isn’t always someone’s fault – it can be caused by genetics. And no one should be stigmatised or discriminated against based on their weight.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity statistics have doubled since 1980. WH investigates this complicated health condition and how it can be prevented.
Understanding the condition
Worldobesityday.org, a coalition of global obesity organisations, explains that those with the condition are constantly shamed and blamed for their disease. Why? Simply because people don’t understand that it’s a chronic disease. They see it as a lack of willpower, laziness, or a refusal to eat less and move more.
The truth is we have no control over some of the biological factors that promote obesity. Poor nutrition when you were a child, even as an unborn baby, make you more likely to be overweight later in life. When you grow up facing hunger, your body is primed for a lifetime of famine and less equipped to deal with an onslaught of unhealthy food. Not being breastfed, having overweight parents and developing emotional connections with food all have a lifelong impact.
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The causes of obesity…
- Genetics. Obesity can be inherited. Some people have naturally high blood cholesterol levels, due to a rare hereditary condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). If one family member is diagnosed with FH, all family members should have a full fasting lipogram done to test if they also have FH.
- Consuming saturated fat. Being overweight increases the chances of abnormal cholesterol levels. People with type-2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome often have low HDL cholesterol levels and elevated triglyceride levels.
- Medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid gland or chronic kidney failure.
- Lack of exercise.
- Drinking and smoking.
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Start the conversation
Knowing that obesity is not your ‘fault’ can be empowering. CEO of The Heart And Stroke Foundation Professor Pamela Naidoo adds: “Understanding your environment and the causes of obesity can help us to adapt and make lifestyle changes despite these challenges that we face. We encourage people to seek out opportunities to live healthier, increase activity levels and eat better. We will continue to work towards a healthier environment for all South Africans.”