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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Obesity: Post Modern World’s Pandemic in waiting?

While the world remains focused on the pandemic at hand, there are other health disasters brewing under the human radar. Governments, Health professionals and citizens at large ignore "Obesity" because it does not kill directly but if diabetes is the mother of diseases then obesity is the mother-in-law of all disease that kill. And its not a laughing matter!

Tauqeer Rizvi

Obesity, does it ring any bells? Sure, our world is in chaos. This much is certain. But is Corona, the only pandemic? Have you heard the word, Obesity? And I know you are thinking that I have lost my mind, right?

True! The coronavirus pandemic has enveloped the globe, and has brought human life across the world to a standstill. The lockdowns and social distancing of today have replaced the family gatherings and warm greetings of yesterday.

Humans across the world have dropped their anchors at home, eagerly awaiting a medicinal breakthrough that will allow them to wake up from this nightmare and get back to living life.

Good News: Corona Vaccine expected before the end of year

There are encouraging signs: pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing against time to produce an effective cure for COVID-19. Studies have allowed researchers to rediscover effective drugs to combat the worst of the disease, and scientific estimates of a coronavirus vaccine (initially forecasted for mid of 2021) have been revised to September 2020 at the earliest.

Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker, New York Times

While these developments do much to galvanize the will of the global populace against this silent killer, they distract from other pressing concerns. One such issue, swept under the rug by healthcare systems around the world amid the coronavirus running rampant, and which has already morphed into the pre-pandemic stage, is: Obesity.

An invisible illness Obesity is an epidemic which affects populations all around the globe in the 21st century. From the most developed countries in the world to third world nations, from Central Asia to Eastern Europe, people of all ages are being affected by health problems linked to being overweight and obesity.

The prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled from 1975 to 2016, with more than 1.9 billion adults over the age of 18 being overweight, of which 650 million were classified as obese.

Obesity, which is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the state of being grossly
fat or overweight”, was the silent killer before the term was cool. It is not without merit. Being obese is one of the primary risk factors for premature deaths, having been linked to 4.7 million deaths in 2017. Keep in mind that in last seven months less than 0.5 million have died of Covid-19.

Obesity is easily ignored because it attacks indirectly. It can be an invitation to a whole host of other health problems, including (but not limited to): liver problems, increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, musculoskeletal disorders, and several forms of cancer.

America: Where Obesity & Corona Pandemic joined hands
In the United States of America, obesity is a serious problem affecting all segments of
society. It is estimated that a whopping 40% of all Americans are obese, with 9% being severely obese.

The American Centre for Disease Control (the healthcare regulator in the United States) quotes on its website: “the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.”

Adult Obesity Facts, Center for Disease Control & Prevention, USA

Amidst a global pandemic, being obese is counterintuitive. It is not a coincidence that the
United States, which the world’s largest obese population, also has the highest number of deaths from COVID-19.

Pakistan: Malnourished yet Obese? 

Moving closer to home, we can see that obesity is a problem that is eating at the Pakistani
populace as well. This heavy problem doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. With 40 to 50 million people being either obese or overweight, obesity is fast becoming a leading cause of premature deaths in the country.

The simmering pandemic: Mental health in Pakistan

While PM Imran Khan continues to talk of malnourished and stunted Pakistanis – which is truly a challenge. Yet more than 50% of the Pakistani population is also overweight according to a study conducted by Pakistan Health Research Council.

All of this is even more frightening once you take into account that Pakistan is still a
developing country with 65% of its population under 35. This age demography is believed to be something that helped – during the Corona Pandemic – in preventing Pakistan, India and Bangladesh from the spectre of death visited upon the geriatric populations of the west.

But with the rising trend of obesity affecting all segments of Pakistani society alike, and considering that the disease does not discriminate between rural-urban areas, Pakistan is expected to be in the top 10 obese nations in the world soon. And we haven’t even managed to beat the pandemic yet.

The aforementioned is a clear elucidation of the danger that obesity poses to the
population. The question then arises: how best to control this disease?

Solution of Obesity lies in basics?
To find a solution to this problem of obesity, one would be best served by dusting off one’s high school physics textbook and opening its pages to the laws of thermodynamics. In summary, they state that energy cannot be created nor be destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another through various processes.

The Only 9 Exercises you need to get in Shape Fast

One then need only apply these principles to one’s daily diets, making sure one consumes less calories than one expends. If one’s caloric intake is lesser than the energy expended by daily activities, the energy deficit will cause one’s body to burn fat.

Thus, the first task for the conscientious student-of-physics-turned-keen-health-enthusiast is to heed his/her caloric intake and consume according to his/her daily needs to keep himself/herself fit as a fiddle.

It is also underscored that we should be mindful of our food choices. We can choose better
food options to aid us in this endeavour. Consuming higher quantities of fruits and vegetables, more fibre, legumes and whole grains is the way to go to prevent obesity.

We would also do well to avoid processed foods like the plague (no pun intended). Regular exercise everyday would be the icing on the cake (again, no pun intended), as it would further accentuate caloric expenditure and force the body to burn excess fat.

The preceeding explanation may sound like a broken record to most readers. But that is
exactly what it is! The formula has been the same throughout human history, it’s just that the current global health situation needs it to be repeated more. The solution is simple, and the execution even simpler.

So Near, Yet so far? 
Awareness of the problem is the key. The masses must be made aware of the challenge of obesity that is slowly but surely leading to health risks and fatalities across the board, and proactive action must be taken and encouraged. Failing this, the world may slowly find itself in the grip of another pandemic in 2120. The silver lining? You will be able to go out and jog!

Writer, Tauqeer Rizvi, has graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) with degree in Economics and Political Science. He is passionate about research and writing.