A weighty problem

OBESITY is all set to overtake tobacco smoking as the biggest cause of heart disease unless the current trend of unhealthy lifestyles stops. More often than not, it is Nature's gift to adults and children who, as a result of social prosperity, eat more (of saturated fats and sugar) and exercise less. In rare cases, the problem is hereditary.

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Published: Sat 22 May 2004, 11:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:43 AM

According to the World Heart Federation, at least a billion people across the globe are now extremely overweight, putting a massive strain on worldwide healthcare systems. What is termed the biggest unrecognised health problem by the World Health Organisation has afflicted 22 million children under the age of five - a figure that is triple what it was 20 years ago. A combination of bad diet and lack of exercise is making obesity a serious threat in developed countries. The alarming fact is that it is not a problem that is solely affecting the Western world. It is being transported to low and middle-income countries through the adoption of Western diets. In a double whammy to the poorer countries, it gives rise to two populations - one that is undernourished and the other, whose percentage is going up, that is becoming obese. Countries in the Middle East are not far behind. According to experts, lifestyle modification and self-discipline are best for prevention and up to 85 per cent of the cases are preventable. The problem is blamed for spiralling health costs. The United States spends a tenth of its national healthcare budget on overweight patients, and in European countries as much as 2.8 per cent of total sick care costs can be attributed to obesity. Such an expense is a 'weighty' burden that Third World economies cannot carry.

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