Rapid Escalation of Obesity in Adolescents and Adults

                    Dr Reetu Verma

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that ‘obesity is a complex chronic disease’. Study released by The Lancet (2024) shows that in 2022, more than 1 billion people in the world are now living with obesity.

Below are key facts from WHO Obesity and overweight (who.int)

  • In 2022, 1 in 8 people in the world were living with obesity.
  • Worldwide adult obesity has more than doubled since 1990, and adolescent obesity has quadrupled.
  • In 2022, 2.5 billion adults (18 years and older) were overweight. Of these, 890 million were living with obesity.
  • In 2022, 43% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight and 16% were living with obesity.

Two measures can be used to assess overweight and obesity are the well-known Body Mass Index (BMI) and the lesser-known measurement of Visceral Fat.

Both measures are explained below, sourced from CHAT GPT.

BMI (Body Mass Index)

BMI is a measure of body fat based on an individual’s weight and height. It’s calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters (BMI = kg/m^2).

BMI is commonly used to categorize individuals into different weight status categories, such as underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese.

While BMI is a useful screening tool for assessing weight status on a population level, it doesn’t directly measure body fat percentage or fat distribution.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is a type of fat that accumulates around internal organs in the abdominal cavity.

Unlike subcutaneous fat (the fat stored just under the skin), visceral fat poses greater health risks because it’s metabolically active and can release fatty acids directly into the liver.

High levels of visceral fat are associated with increased risk of various health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Relationship between Visceral Fat and BMI

While BMI can provide a general indication of overall body fatness, it doesn’t differentiate between fat stored in different parts of the body, such as subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.

Individuals with a higher BMI may have higher levels of visceral fat, but this isn’t always the case. Some individuals may have a high BMI due to muscle mass rather than excess fat.

Conversely, individuals with a normal BMI can still have high levels of visceral fat, which is often referred to as having normal weight obesity or being “skinny fat”.

Therefore, while BMI can be a useful starting point for assessing weight status, it’s important to consider other measures, such as waist circumference or imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans, to accurately assess visceral fat levels and associated health risks.

Summary

While BMI and visceral fat are both indicators of health risks associated with weight and fat distribution, they measure different aspects of body composition. Visceral fat, specifically, is more directly linked to health risks, especially metabolic disorders, compared to BMI alone.

 

Photo sourced from unsplash