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Obesity is associated with a higher incidence of a of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Consumption of fast food, trans fatty acids TFAsand fructose—combined with increasing portion sizes and decreased physical activity—has been implicated as a potential contributing factor in the obesity crisis.
The use of body mass index BMI alone is of limited utility for predicting adverse cardiovascular outcomes, but the utility of this measure may be strengthened when combined with waist circumference and other anthropomorphic measurements. Certain public health initiatives have helped to identify and reduce some of the factors contributing to obesity.
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In New York City and Denmark, for example, such initiatives have succeeded in passing legislation to reduce or remove TFAs from residents' diets. The obesity epidemic will likely change practice for gastroenterologists, as shifts will be seen in the incidence of obesity-related gastrointestinal disorders, disease severity, and the nature of comorbidities. The experience gained with epidemiologic problems such as smoking should help involved parties to expand needed health initiatives and increase the likelihood of preventing future generations from suffering the consequences of obesity.
Obesity is rapidly becoming the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with obesity-related deaths projected to soon surpass deaths related to tobacco abuse. The incidence of obesity has doubled in the United States sincewith one third of the adult population currently obese. Numerous comorbid conditions have been associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
In the current debate over healthcare reform in the United States, no proposed solution can reasonably ignore or minimize the role that obesity plays with regard to economic and health consequences. This article will give an overview of the epidemiology of obesity, provide measures of defining obesity, and discuss the impact of public health and environmental factors associated with the marked increase in obesity. Potential health initiatives that might be successful in preventing obesity and its associated consequences in future generations will also be discussed.
Finally, this article will address the implications that obesity has for gastroenterologists. Inthe US Surgeon General released a report raising concerns about the growing obesity epidemic; this report was the first to note that obesity and obesity-related diseases might soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
More concerning than the rise in obesity among adults is the increased prevalence of obesity among chil-dren.
For children aged 19 years or younger, obesity is defined as a weight at or above the 95th percentile for age; overweight children are those whose weight is between the 85th and 95th percentiles for age. In5. In The prevalence of obesity shows striking disparities with regard to race and ethnicity in both adults and children. The prevalence of obesity was lower among non-Hispanic white children When gender and race were considered, ificantly higher rates of obesity were seen in Mexican American boys Non-Hispanic African American girls had ificantly higher rates of obesity While obesity is clearly a major public health issue in the United States, the increased prevalence of obesity is not limited to this country; indeed, obesity is now a global epidemic.
Over the past 10 years, the World Health Organization WHO has recognized the increasing of people who are overweight or obese, and attention is now being given to the global implications associated with this trend. In an analysis of the leading causes of global mortality and burden of disease, obesity and being overweight were among the top 10 causes for each. Using BMI alone to define obesity has been problematic in some settings, given differences in genetics, fat distribution, and percentage of body adiposity among various countries.
Because Asian populations have a higher proportion of body fat, for example, lower BMIs have been proposed to identify individuals in these populations who are overweight or obese. Compared to white subjects, BMI underestimated body fat percentage in Chinese, Malay, and Indian subjects, with the error ranging from 2. Furthermore, Asians had a higher risk of developing diabetes and CVD and had increased mortality at normal BMIs compared to other ethnic groups.
Further problems occur when epidemiologic studies use self-reported data to calculate BMI. Many of the larger international studies used to estimate the of overweight and obese individuals in foreign countries have used surveys involving self-reported heights and weights. On average, BMIs in older individuals were 1 unit lower when calculated using self-reported values compared to BMIs calculated using measured values. Furthermore, this self-reporting bias worsened as true BMI values increased.
In an earlier French study of 7, individuals, values for both self-reported weight and height were inaccurate. In contrast, height was ificantly overestimated by a mean of 0. This combination of errors led to an underestimation of BMI— by 0. Large cohort studies have shown that elevated BMI has been associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular events. When other risk factors such as smoking were removed from the analysis, higher BMIs were associated with an increased risk of mor-tality.
In a subsequent large prospective cohort study ofUS men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 years, researchers evaluated the association between BMI and death from any cause over a year period — When individuals without preexisting cardiovascular conditions including smoking were isolated, overweight individuals still showed an increase in mortality. While BMI is thus a useful predictor in some settings, how BMI compares to other anthropo-metric measurements in terms of accurately determining obesity, associated comorbid diseases, and respective mortality has been a topic of recent debate.
While the WHO still uses BMI to identify individuals who are overweight or obese, mounting evidence suggests that a city of central adiposity is more accurate in predicting obesity-related cardiovascular consequences. WHR, waist circumference WCand hip circumference were individually associated with an increased risk of subsequent MI independent of other risk factors, including BMI.
Two different meta-analyses evaluated measures of abdominal adiposity and their relationship to cardiac events, as well as their ability to predict the development of associated cardiac risk factors. In the first of these meta-analyses, BMI was compared to measures of central adiposity—including WHR, WC, and waist-to-height cave WHtR —to determine the best predictor for development of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and hyperlip-idemia.
The majority of the patients included in this study were from Asia and the Middle East. In comparing these different measures of central girl, it is important to note that technical limitations can make it difficult to measure WHtR consistently.
Although visceral adipose stores can be directly measured by computerized axial tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, the high cost of these tests limits their applicability in large epidemiologic studies. Several studies have shown a relationship between elevated BMI for chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity-related cancers. Conversely, other sex have shown reduced mortality due to cardiovascular causes in obese patients Fat to lean controls. These latter studies appear to reflect an increase in the diagnosis and early treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in this high-risk group more so than a decreased incidence of obesity-related comorbid conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.
Postoperative complications occur more frequently in obese patients than lean controls, with an increased incidence of MI, peripheral nerve injury, wound infection, and cardiac arrest. In addition to the potential impact on mortality, the overall morbidity seen in this growing patient population remains a key issue contributing to decreased quality of life in overweight and obese individuals. Impairment in activities of daily living—such as eating, dressing, and transferring to and from a bed or wheelchair—occur at a younger age in obese patients compared to nonobese controls.
While the hazards of obesity have long been known, the benefits of weight loss and exercise have only recently become more apparent. One study investigated 3, nondiabetic patients with elevated fasting glucose levels and randomly ased them to treatment with placebo, metformin, or lifestyle modification including weight loss and exercise.
The parallel between the national and international expansion of fast food companies over the past 50 years and the growth of the obesity epidemic is no coincidence. This study found a strong positive correlation between visits to fast food restaurants and weight gain with development of insulin resistance. Higher baseline consumption of fast food was associated with increased weight gain after 15 years.
Other cross-sectional studies have shown similar associations between fast food intake and increased body weight. The specific aspect of fast food consumption that contributes most to obesity and insulin resistance is currently the subject of much debate. One possibility is that the high caloric density of fast food is the sole culprit, but there may also be a specific component in fast food that contributes to the increased risk for obesity and diabetes.
Compared to other fats, TFAs have higher melting points, better taste, and longer shelf lives.
The obesity epidemic: challenges, health initiatives, and implications for gastroenterologists
The Expert Committee of the American Medical Association recently concluded that there is strong evidence that eating away from home, specifically consumption of fast food, is a risk factor for childhood obesity. In addition to children's fast food meals and the early brand recognition they build, children are bombarded with television advertising from fast food companies.
Branding involves developing recognition and positive associations with a product.
Studies have found that children aged 3—6 years view, understand, and remember advertising when cartoon characters are used. Half of these advertisements were specifically aimed at children, with most from fast food companies. The fast food advertisements seemed to focus on building brand recognition and positive associations through the use of logos and cartoon characters.
In addition to fast food advertising directed at children, some evidence suggests that a disproportionate of fast food restaurants are located in close proximity to schools. The primary outcome in this study was BMI. These children also consumed more soda and ate less fruits and vegetables. The high caloric density and trans-fat content of fast food are only some of the factors contributing to the obesity epidemic.
In the past 30 years, the portion sizes of many foods have increased, leading to increased energy intake.
Despite this action, items on McDonald's current menu still dwarf the portion sizes introduced in The largest increase in portion sizes has come with the ever expanding size of hamburger options. Consumption of soft drinks has been linked with metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk based on the Framingham study.
These trends coincided with the expansion of the obesity epidemic. Prospective studies have linked increased intake of sweetened beverages directly with increased weight gain. A second prospective study examined the effect of sucrose and artificial sweeteners on weight gain in a population of overweight adults. The change in weight differed ificantly between groups, with the sucrose-supplement group gaining a mean of 1.