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This World Obesity Day, Let's Debunk 5 Most Common Myths Around Obesity

According to World Obesity Atlas, over 4 billion people globally may be overweight and affected by obesity by 2035.

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A new study published in the medical journal Lancet on Thursday, 29 February, said that Obesity in India, particularly among young children, has increased manifold.

While previous studies have indicated that obesity can turn into a serious health threat, unfortunately, there are many misconceptions associated with it.

These unsupported beliefs may lead to poorly informed clinical decisions and create adverse effects on our bodies.

The data collected and published by World Obesity Atlas 2023, suggests that over 4 billion people globally may be overweight and affected by obesity (BMI ≥25kg/m²) by 2035.

It further mentions that lower-middle income countries with large populations, such as India, would quickly follow the pattern of upper-middle income countries by following a rise in obesity prevalence, especially among children and adolescents.

To tackle the most common myths around obesity, this World Obesity Day, we reached out to experts, namely, Dr Aasim Maldar, Consultant - Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai and Dr Vaishali Lokhande, General Physician, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Mumbai.

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Myth 1: Obesity Will Definitely Cause Diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly mentions obesity as one of the most common but serious diseases.

However, obesity also brings in a risk of developing other health risks including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

A paper titled 'Why does obesity cause diabetes?' published in 2022 explains that the accumulation of an excessive amount of body fat can cause type 2 diabetes, and in turn, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases linearly with an increase in body mass index.

Although obesity is one of the risk factors for developing diabetes, Dr Aasim Maldar stresses on how there is no cause-effect relationship between the two.

This clarifies that obesity can pose as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with obesity will develop type 2 diabetes, and not everyone with type 2 diabetes has obesity.

Myth 2: Eating Less Is the Only Solution to Reduce Obesity

There are several factors that can lead the path to obesity and this includes insufficient sleep, psychological stress, chronic pain, endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and the use of certain medications.

In such cases, overeating, for instance, may be a symptom rather than a cause, explains a paper titled 'Widespread misconceptions about obesity' published in 2014.

Along with an individual's eating habits, physical activity patterns, insufficient sleep and several other health factors influence excess weight gain.

"Portion control is only a part of the solution to lose weight. Weight loss therapy should also include a balanced diet, regular physical activities, managing stress, and addressing any other contributing medical conditions, " adds Dr Maldar.

Myth 3: Obese Individuals Should Intake More Vitamin Pills Instead of Eating Foods

Dr Maldar clarifies that vitamin pills can never be a substitute for a healthy diet.

He adds that in order to lose weight, it is best to focus on eating healthy, and nutrient-rich foods, rather than only relying on vitamin supplements.

Even sugary drinks that can be a source of quick energy, are more harmful than useful. These drinks can become addictive and lead to weight gain.

"It is always recommended to get sustained energy from healthy foods like fruits, leafy vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats," Dr Maldar adds.

According to World Obesity Atlas, over 4 billion people globally may be overweight and affected by obesity by 2035.

vitamin pills can never be a substitute for a healthy diet.

(Source: Canva)

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Myth 4: Obesity Doesn’t Pose Major Health Risks to Kids

If the child is obese, then they are at risk of many of the same problems as obese adults. As per the World Obesity Atlas 2023, the risk of annual increase in child obesity has increased in India from 2020 to 2035 with 9.1 percent.

Dr Maldar explains that obesity and over-weight in kids is a risk factor for development of many chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart diseases.

"Other than affecting physical health, obesity can also affect children's mental well being and self-esteem. Unaddressed childhood obesity can have long term detrimental effects on the overall future health of the child," he adds.,

According to World Obesity Atlas, over 4 billion people globally may be overweight and affected by obesity by 2035.

obesity and over-weight in kids is a risk factor for development of many chronic conditions.

(Source: Canva)

We also spoke to Dr Vaishali Lokhande who said, "According to Apollo data, we have seen an exponential rise in childhood obesity; nearly 15% of those screened were either overweight or obese, which is 3 times more than what was observed a few years ago."

She adds that a better approach towards children with obesity is to provide them with balanced meals that include whole grains, proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables as these foods supply sustained energy and essential nutrients without the excessive calories.

Myth 5: Obesity Causes By Eating Only at Night

According to the myth, only eating late at night will make you obese. However, it is the excess amount of calories consumed over the whole of 24 hours, and the imbalance between calorie intake and calorie expenditure that can be a major factor to cause an increase in body weight.

"Nighttime eating can sometimes lead to weight gain because of the types of foods chosen (often high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks) and a lack of physical activity afterward. It's more about what and how much is eaten rather than the timing," adds Dr Lokhande.

A study titled 'The Health Impact of Nighttime Eating: Old and New Perspectives' published in 2015 states that according to their data, healthy men consuming small (~150 kcal) protein-rich beverages at night, appears to improve overnight muscle protein synthesis, morning metabolism and satiety.

It adds that when obese women are eating before sleeping, noticed an improve morning appetite but also increase insulin resistance.

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