Many Obese People Believe They Are Overweight: How To Differentiate Them

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It is the result of an investigation carried out in 11 countries. They claim that underestimation of the condition affects treatment.

In Argentina, more than 6 out of 10 adults and 4 out of 10 children and adolescents are above their healthy weight, according to official statistics. Those extra kilos can make a picture of overweight or obesity, depending on how much excess is present. International research showed that many obese people underestimate their condition by believing they are overweight.

The authors of the work presented at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) -which this year was held virtually due to the pandemic- consider that this situation may affect the worldwide management of obesity, a problem that does not stops growing and that is one of the main risk factors associated with the development of chronic noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular, diabetes and some types of cancer.

For the ACTION IO study -sponsored by Novo Nordisk- they were surveyed 14,500 people with obesity and almost 2,800 health professionals from 11 countries (Australia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom).

Among other conclusions, it was seen that 6 out of 10 (62%) people with grade 1 obesity, that is, with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 34.9 kg / m2, considered that they were only overweight. The same was thought by 31% of those with grade 2 obesity (BMI between 35 and 39.9 kg / m2) and 1 in 4 (25%) of those with grade 3 (BMI over 40 kg / m2) 1 .

BMI is an indicator of the relationship between weight and height (height) that is frequently used to identify overweight and obesity in adults. It is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kilos by the square of his height in meters (kg / m2). For example, a person who weighs 60 kg and is 1.60 m tall has a BMI of 23.4 (60 / 1.60 = 60 / 2.56 = 23.4). If the result of this calculation is above 30, it is considered obesity (you can calculate your BMI here).

According to the World Health Organization classification, an index between 30 and 34.9 is considered grade I or moderate obesity; between 35 and 39.9, grade II or severe; and over 40, grade III or morbid. These levels correspond respectively to an increase moderate, severe and very severe health risks.

According to Susana Gutt, a nutritionist and member of the Argentine Society of Nutrition (SAN), the misperception recorded in the study “could discourage a person with obesity from seeking the support they need to effectively lose weight or to treat complications linked to the disease “.

Among people with obesity, men are more likely to develop cardiometabolic complications (10% versus 4%), while women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety or depression (28% versus 14%) 3. On the other hand, women are more likely to make multiple attempts to lose weight (average 4.6 times versus 3.1) and try medical or surgical treatments, but 75% regain weight at 6 months compared to more than half for men.

“The study also revealed that it is urgent to intervene earlieras overweight problems before the age of 20 are associated with greater severity of the disease and feelings of hopelessness, “added Dr. Gutt.

The youngest group of participants had proportionally more obesity grade 2 (23% versus 16%) and 3 (18% versus 11%) compared to those who were not obese from an early age. Almost half of people with obesity at a younger age reported feeling that they were not able to overcome their weight problems and the 40% expressed that their lives are governed by weight control.

“These findings allow us to better understand the barriers that hinder the effective treatment of this condition and highlight how the perception, attitudes and behaviors of people with obesity affect their approach. Better understanding of the management of this condition is extremely important, especially when the obesity index tripled since 1975 worldwide and even more so now that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of treatment for obesity, a chronic inflammatory disease that can negatively affect the course of an infection by this virus, “said endocrinologist Juliana Mociulsky, head of the Nutrition section of the Cardiovascular Institute of Buenos Aires (ICBA).

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important it is that we understand obesity as a disease in the full sense of the word. These findings highlight that it continues to be underestimated with misinterpretations deeply installed in society and in the medical community, “he stressed.

“Given the greater impact of obesity, and given that the disease is more difficult to treat if it begins at an early age, we have to promote that health professionals intervene earlier with treatments tailored to the needs and behaviors of each patient to achieve better results in people living with obesity, “he concluded.


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