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How to prevent obesity

How to prevent obesity

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Knowing how to prevent obesity is essential to deal with this disease so common in today’s society, which is a consequence of excessive accumulation of fat, and which can facilitate the development of other pathologies such as type 2 diabetes.

Its origin is multifactorial, that is, it is determined by several factors. One of them is genetic, which implies a predisposition to develop it. But, if we have this genetic component, can we avoid obesity? In many cases it is possible by implanting certain habits in our lifestyle. Do you want to know what they are? So keep reading this article!

Its origin is multifactorial, that is, it is determined by several factors. One of them is genetic, which implies a predisposition to develop it. But, if we have this genetic component, can we avoid obesity? In many cases it is possible by implanting certain habits in our lifestyle. Do you want to know what they are? So keep reading this article!

Overweight and obesity, the epidemic of the 21st century

Obesity is currently one of the most important public health problems worldwide. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) has recently classified it as “the epidemic of the 21st century”.

The figures are alarming and speak for themselves. According to WHO data, in 2016, approximately 39% of the world’s adult population was overweight, and 13% was obese.

Referring to Spain, according to the 2017 European Health Survey, obesity and overweight continue to increase over the years, affecting 17.4% of the adult population and 10.3% of minors (from 2 to 17 years).

How is obesity diagnosed?

The WHO defines overweight and obesity as “an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that poses a health risk.”

Currently, the most used parameters to assess whether we are overweight or obese are the following:

  • The Body Mass Index (BMI): to obtain it, the weight in kg is divided by the square of the height in square meters: [BMI = KG / M2]. If the result is greater than 25 kg / m2, it is considered to be overweight, and if it is greater than 30 kg / m2, obesity.

However, this method has a limitation, which is that it does not distinguish fat from muscle. To solve this aspect, we have the parameter “percentage of fat mass”.

  • Percentage of fat mass: to carry out this measurement, scales are used that evaluate the person’s weight in more detail, taking into account the percentages of water, muscle and fat. A fat result greater than 35% indicates obesity in men, and greater than 32% in women.
  • Abdominal obesity: this method consists of measuring the waist circumference to determine abdominal obesity. This is considered to exist if the measurement taken is greater than 102 cm in men and 88 cm in women.

Complications of obesity.

According to WHO data, 2.8 million people die each year worldwide as a consequence of obesity or being overweight.

In addition to the decrease in quality of life that both overweight and obesity imply, according to an NIH study , morbid obesity can reduce life expectancy by up to 14 years .

Both obesity and being overweight are associated with the risk of chronic diseases or complications such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes: the risk of developing it increases even if you are overweight.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
  • Some types of cancer: mainly that of the breast and endometrium in women, and that of the prostate and rectum in men, among others.
  • Osteoarthritis : especially in the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Depression and psychological problems: due, among other reasons, to the lack of social acceptance.
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As you can see, the complications of obesity can be severe, however, the good news is that there are strategies to try to prevent it that, to a large extent, depend on us. Adopting a series of healthy habits focused on preventing its development can be key to preventing it. Prevention has a fundamental role not only in obesity, but in many other diseases as we explained in the article Know preventive and personalized medicine of the XXI century . Preventive medicine has an increasingly important role in medicine today.

Causes of obesity and how to prevent it 

First of all, it should be noted that any treatment for obesity must be supervised by a health professional, since in some cases a change in habits is not enough and requires specific therapies.

However, it is best to anticipate its appearance, since it is a disease that can be prevented. As previously discussed, it is a multifactorial pathology, in which there are many components involved. Next, we will see some factors related to the appearance of this pathology, and how we can act on each of them.

The psychological factor

Eating is a physiological necessity, however, if it becomes an impulsive behavior to alleviate emotional needs, you can lose control over food intake.

If you observe that you have this relationship with food, it is advisable to request psychological help to be able to control this impulse.

The hormonal factor

We have always heard that not all people burn the calories we eat in the same way, and that is that the basal metabolism is also a factor that can contribute to the appearance of this disease. The basal metabolic rate is the rate at which we burn energy while we are at rest, and this rate can vary up to 20% in different people.

Other hormonal factors that influence the appearance of this disease is insulin resistance, which causes that instead of using the sugar we eat to produce energy, it accumulates in the body as fat.

A hormone that has a fundamental role in obesity and whose studies have been increasing considerably in recent years is leptin, because its functions include its role in regulating appetite and in metabolic processes, as it is related to the amount of fatty tissue of the body.

In addition, there are different hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, which can be the cause of obesity.

Pharmacological factors

Some medications may lead to weight gain, such as those used to treat diabetes, psychiatric disorders, or inflammatory processes.

If you are taking any drug of this type, and it is influencing your weight, you can discuss it with your doctor to assess the situation and act on other factors that help you control your weight.

Environmental factors

The main ones are age, which leads to an increase in body weight (in the case of women, menopause causes hormonal changes that slow down energy consumption and increase food intake), lifestyle and eating habits. Regarding this last factor, some of the eating habits that are associated with the development of obesity are:

  • Diets with an excessive content of meats, sausages, dairy products and, in general, energy-dense foods such as pastries and carbonated drinks.
  • Deficit in intake of vegetables, fruits and cereals.
  • Regular consumption of very large servings.
  • Numerous intakes throughout the day.
  • Eating compulsively.

Eating habits begin around 4 years of age and are established at 11. Therefore, childhood is the ideal time to model healthy eating behavior, which will last a lifetime.

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What does “eat well” mean? 

Eating well does not mean eating less or being on a regular diet. The key is to establish eating habits that can be based on the following guidelines:

  • Eat in the most varied way possible to guarantee a balanced supply of nutrients.
  • Constitute a diet base in which carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, potatoes) represent 55% of the calories in the diet.
  • Fats should not exceed 30% of daily intake.
  • Limit the consumption of saturated and hydrogenated fats, present in industrial pastries, ultra-processed, etc.
  • Provide 15% protein in total daily calories, combining those of plant and animal origin, and within the latter, prioritizing those with less fat.
  • Increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables and vegetables.
  • Reduce the intake of products rich in simple sugars (such as sweets, industrial juices or soft drinks), and the consumption of salt.
  • Drink about 2 liters of water a day

In addition to these dietary tips, the following tips to prevent obesity should also be considered:

  • Make between 4 or 5 meals a day to avoid reaching the main meals with excessive hunger, which will lead us to eat more than we should.
  • Do not consume more calories than necessary, and provide the body with all the nutrients daily through fresh and healthy foods.
  • Cooking food in healthy ways: avoid fried and battered and prioritize the griddle, the boiled, the steam or the oven.
  • Read the nutritional labels, to evaluate if the food we are thinking of adding to our shopping cart is healthy or not. If we buy badly, we will eat badly, that’s why we must pay attention to the ingredients and the type of fats they contain.

Avoid eating jet lag on the weekend 

In addition to these measures, a recent study published in the Nutrients magazine , by CIBEROBN researchers assigned to the University of Barcelona, ​​has shown that the habitual irregularity of meal times on weekends, which the authors call eating jet lag, could be linked to an increase in body mass index. 

The results were obtained without taking into account other factors such as the quality of the diet, the level of physical activity and the difference in the sleep schedules of the weekend.

This is the first study to put on the table the importance of having regular meal times, not only during the week, but also on Saturdays and Sundays, for weight control. This study shows that the alteration of the 3 main meals during the weekends is related to the appearance of obesity and a greater impact on the body mass index, especially when the time differences are 3 ½ hours or more.

The importance of breakfast

Not eating breakfast or eating it incompletely during childhood is related to obesity. An incomplete breakfast causes the children’s attention to decline throughout the morning and, when they arrive at mealtime, they eat more, but it does not compensate for the lack of physical and even intellectual performance they have had up to that moment. It is important not to skip breakfast and include fruit, cereals and dairy products.

Sedentary lifestyle in children and adolescents

Sedentary activities such as video games or television increasingly gain ground for activities that involve physical activity. This is decisive for good health, so it is essential for children to ensure that they get enough exercise. For adults, everyday habits like climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator can help.

In short, healthy lifestyles are essential to prevent obesity, and also to enjoy complete well-being, both physical and mental.

What is the relationship between genetics and obesity?

The common obesity , in which we are focusing on this article, which affects most of the population and has a multifactorial origin, ie genetic and environmental.

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There are other types of obesity, with a much lower incidence (5% of obesity cases), among which we can highlight cases associated with MODY diabetes ( Maturiy Onset Diabetes of the Young ) that are due to the mutation of a gene, that is, they are not multifactorial. Within these diabetes, according to the gene involved, several types are distinguished.

Several genes related to common obesity are known. Recent studies have shown that the predisposition to obesity is linked to the mechanisms responsible for regulating appetite and energy expenditure. Well, the genes associated with obesity currently known are involved in transmitting hunger and satiety signals, and in the processes of growth and differentiation of adipocytes, as well as in the regulation of energy expenditure.

People who have alterations in these genes are more susceptible to developing obesity when exposed to environmental factors such as eating habits that we have seen in the previous section.

Specific genes linked to obesity

The genetics of common obesity is the consequence of a wide variety of mutations that can occur in different genes. Therefore, the genetic study of obesity is complicated, since each individual may have a different genetic profile.

The most studied genes associated with obesity are FTO and MC4R . A polymorphism of the FTO gene (rs9939609) is linked to a higher body mass index and other risk factors such as a greater waist circumference.

Variants of the MC4R gene have been related to eating habits that promote the appearance of obesity and high levels of fat mass.

Other genes related to a predisposition to obesity are:  FAIM2, NEGR1, BDNF, NRXNB, TFAP2B, SH2B1, APOA2, PLIN1.

In addition, epigenetics, which can be defined as modifications or regulatory elements that involve changes in genetic function and that occur without modifying the DNA sequence, also has a great influence on the development of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. The relationship between the three main mechanisms and epigenetic marks (such as methylation) with obesity is increasingly being studied.

Can we prevent obesity, even if we have a genetic predisposition? 

As we have just explained, the FTO and MC4R genes , among others, are linked to the appearance of common obesity. Recent studies have shown that those who present genetic variants in both genes have a greater weight than those with only one variant. They also point out that the genetic effects are not uniform for all individuals, but are modulated by physical exercise and diet, so that active subjects will be able to counteract this genetic predisposition.

Therefore, physical activity and diet are key to compensating for the mutations of the mentioned genes. People who have the variants, if they play sports, eat well and follow healthy lifestyle habits that allow them to control their weight, do not have to be obese.

The results come from observational studies, so intervention studies are necessary to allow more personalized recommendations.

In any case, the effect of dietary and exercise habits on different phenotypes such as obesity is different for each person. For this reason, the study of how genes interact with the environment is very important, since it allows increasing knowledge about obesity and obtaining new evidence to develop individualized prevention strategies.

As you have seen, obesity is a disease that, luckily, can be prevented.

From Veritas, we offer you the myGenome test, with which apart from knowing what determines your genetics about some habits that can affect the appearance of obesity such as eating between meals or if you are better at strength or resistance sports , you will also be able to know your genetic predisposition to other diseases including cancer and different cardiovascular diseases. Prevention is easier when you have the right information. If you have any questions, please contact us. We will be happy to solve it!

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