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How does Obesity Affect Public Health and How can we Deal with its Medical Consequences?

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Obesity is a medical condition which involves the build up of excess body fat to a degree at which the risk of obtaining chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, cancer or heart failure) is increased. It is commonly defined by using a person's BMI (body mass index) which is simply calculated by dividing weight (kg) by height (m2). After taking muscle mass into account, obesity in adults is characterised by a BMI equal to or above 30 kg/m2. (Tremmel et al, 2017) There are many areas of public health that affected by obesity such as life expectancy, quality of life, employment but most of all disease. The purpose of this essay is to explore the effects that obesity has on the general public and the measures that will be taken to control it.

Obesity is a serious hazard to public health and affects 62% of the UK population as well as attributing to over 11,000 hospital visits in the UK in 2018. (NHS Digital, 2020) Approximately £6.1 billion was spent by the NHS in 2014 to 2015 owing to illness stemming from obesity. (Priory, 2020) Many of these illnesses often go unnoticed for several years which is why the obese populations continues to grow. For instance, the NHS estimates that adult women are 13 times likelier to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes if they are obese and 2-4% more likely to develop hypertension. (Health Express, 2018) In children, the UK statistics are some of the highest in Europe where in 2018, approximately 10% of children aged 4 to 5 were characterised as obese as well as 20% of those aged 10 to 11. (Barakat, 2019) Government reports indicate that a possible reason for this is the difficulty to realise developing obesity in a small child, therefore early nutrition from the parent is not monitored closely enough. (Health Express, 2018)

Obesity is a condition that can be brought on by many factors, the most common being excessive calorie intake which entails the storage of body fat rather than energy due to the surplus consumption. Obesity continues to be a major financial burden on the general public due to the cost of any necessary health care for the individual as well as the loss of paid work from the individual. Decreased mobility and excess fatigue often means that the individual cannot undergo paid work meaning there is restraint in growing the economy. (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001) Failure to realise the consequences of obesity will result in a lack of planning for future cases especially because the population of obese patients is rapidly increasing. Not only is there demand for transport resources from home to hospital, but also equipment is needed for various health problems deriving from obesity. High blood pressure, cardiac arrests and strokes all require specialist medical attention which leaves pressure on the NHS budget; the number of patients with obesity having these conditions is increasing and is probably higher than those with just these issues.

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Overeating and unhealthy diet can also stem from instability within one’s mental health; research has shown that 50% and 41% of men and women respectively developed obesity after being diagnosed with a mental illness. (Littleberry, 2017) Finding comfort in eating food after facing serious mental illness is a common theme, and often cannot be stopped. Research has shown that there is a likelihood of depression leading to obesity as a consequence of less motivation to have a good diet. (NHS, 2018) On the other hand, obesity has also been known to be a side effect of certain medications used to oversee the mental illness in the first place. (Mental Health Foundation, 2018)

The introduction of the sugar tax in the UK also came about due to the overwhelming numbers of obese people. It is a strategy that aims to convince companies to reduce the sugar levels in their products in order to avoid paying the tax. (Thornton, 2018) However, since 2018, reports have shown that the tax has had an insignificant effect on sugar consumption after 62% of customers admitted to not changing their eating habits. Despite, the disappointing results amongst consumers, records show that manufacturers did modify appropriately and most sugary drinks were found to be below the sugar tax verge. (Ceylan, 2018)

Genetics have also been known to play a big role in obesity. In some recent discoveries, over 50 types of gene have been found to have strong connections with the development of obesity. For example, studies have found that 43% of population are born with the “fat mass and obesity-associated” (FTO). (Sicat, 2018) FTO has been shown to increase hunger for calorific foods by lowering dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter that controls impulse and ability to make decisions). Weight fluctuation was also found to be a side effect of FTO and research suggested that people with hazardous variants of this gene were more susceptible to obesity. (NHS, 2014)

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How does Obesity Affect Public Health and How can we Deal with its Medical Consequences? (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
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